SFFF Day 3 – Actually, They’re All Labyrinths

There’s a running joke in Bill Watterson’s Dave Made a Maze (2017), a film about a man who builds a massive cardboard maze (bigger inside than out) and then gets trapped within it. As Dave’s friend Gordon (Adam Busch) repeatedly points out, the maze is full of traps, making it, in fact, a labyrinth. Day 3 of the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival offered a disparate collection of films – a comedy recounting a slacker’s epic quest in a DIY fortress; a trippy, coming-of-age, prom night parable; a genre-mixing, science fiction blockbuster; and a dreamy descent into a housewife’s trauma and a cult’s terrifying prophecy. Each offers its own twists and turns, finding new dangers as they progress through corrugated caverns, genre conventions, and layered realities. In fact, they’re all labyrinths in their own ways.

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Universe (Roman Kroitor and Colin Low, 1960) and In the Labyrinth (Roman Kroitor, Colin Low, and Hugh O’Connor, 1967)

NFBAside from being an astonishingly effective and expertly depicted journey through space, Roman Kroitor and Colin Low’s Universe (1960) is probably most celebrated for its connection to Stanley Kubrick and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).  This Oscar-nominated and BAFTA-winning short was a revelation to Kubrick, who purportedly watched nearly every space movie made to that point in preparation for 2001Universe proved that it was possible to depict outer space with complete realism, and Kubrick hired the short’s special effects technician Wally Gentleman as an uncredited special effects supervisor and cast Universe‘s narrator Douglas Rain as the voice of the HAL 9000.  Colin Low was also invited by Kubrick to work on 2001, but the director turned down the offer to work with Roman Kroitor and Hugh O’Connor on the multi-screen documentary collage film, In the Labyrinth (1967), for Expo 67 in Montreal.  In the Labyrinth served as a precursor to the IMAX format developed in part by Kroitor, and the film’s content anticipates the immersive travelogues and spectacular anthropologies of films like Godfrey Reggio’s Qatsi Trilogy (1983, 1988, and 2002) and Ron Fricke’s Baraka (1992) and Samsara (2011), although Labyrinth proves even more daring in its formal construction.  A link to In the Labyrinth is included below.

As per the NFB:

A triumph of film art, creating on the screen a vast, awe-inspiring picture of the universe as it would appear to a voyager in space, this film was among the sources used in his 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Realistic animation takes you into far regions of space, beyond the reach of the strongest telescope, past Moon, Sun, and Milky Way into galaxies yet unfathomed.

Click here to watch In the Labyrinth on the NFB website!

In the LabyrinthAs per the NFB:

A film without commentary in which multiple images, sometimes complimentary, sometimes contrasting, draw the viewer through the different stages of a labyrinth.  The tone of the film moves from great joy to wrenching sorrow; from stark simplicity to ceremonial pomp.  It is life as it is lived by the people of the world, each one, as the film suggests, in a personal labyrinth.

In the Labyrinth was first released as a multi-screen presentation for Chamber III of the Labyrinth at Expo 67.  These separate images were integrated into a single strand of film, using a “five-on-one” cinematic technique.

Canada Carries On, Twice

NFBWith the establishment of the National Film Board of Canada in 1939, John Grierson, the British documentarian and the NFB’s first commissioner, set upon a project to foster and shape the national identity, and the outbreak of World War II was a timely context for Grierson’s nationalist aims.  One of the NFB’s first efforts was Canada Carries On, a series of theatrical shorts aimed to boost morale during wartime.  Its producer, British documentary filmmaker Stuart Legg, found early success in the endeavour when he received two Oscar nominations for the new documentary short category.  Relying heavily on stock footage and “voice-of-God” commentary, Legg’s Churchill’s Island (1941) and Warclouds in the Pacific (1941) are remarkable documents of their periods.  Churchill’s Island won that first documentary Oscar, but Legg has failed to garner the kind of recognition given to his close colleague Grierson.

As per the NFB:

This film won the NFB its first Oscar® and was also the first documentary to win this coveted award.  It presents the strategy of the Battle of Britain, showing with penetrating clarity the relationships between the various forces made up the island’s defences.  Here is the Royal Air Force in its epic battle with the Luftwaffe, the Navy in its stubborn fight against the raiders of sea and sky, the coastal defences, the mechanized cavalry, the merchant seamen and behind them all, Britain’s tough, unbending civilian army.

As per the NFB:

This short film examines the Japan that emerged at the beginning of the 1900s and was firmly established as an industrialized nation by the outbreak of World War II.  Facing the greatest threat in their history, the democracies of the Pacific took careful stock of this new Japan and its strength, and erected a vast system of defence across the world’s greatest ocean.