With his latest work, Guy Maddin renders irrelevant the hoary debate about whether documentary or fiction is "more real." Ostensibly, he's offering a portrait of the frigid Manitoba city where he grew up-and, indeed, at the Tribeca Film Festival's first screening he appears in person to speak the narration live, as though offering further attestation that this is all true. But although there may well be a birth certificate confirming that Maddin was born in the actual Canadian metropolis of Winnipeg, My Winnipeg offers little in the way of proof that anything described in the film actually happened in Winnipeg, or happened to Guy Maddin in Winnipeg, or happened anywhere for that matter. In fact, viewing the film may make you pause to wonder whether Winnipeg actually exists, or Guy Maddin actually exists, or you actually exist. You may find yourself clutching your ticket stub in a pathetic attempt to hold on to reality. For example, let's take Maddin's mother. (One imagines Maddin doing stand-up in a Winnipeg nightclub, if such a place exists, joking: "Take my mother…please!") Although the real Guy Maddin's mother is reportedly still alive, the filmmaker has chosen to have her portrayed by an actress, quite a no-no for a documentary. And the actress he's cast in the role is none other than Ann Savage, who in 1945 (!) appeared unforgettably as the most unrelenting shrew ever depicted in any American film in Edgar G. Ulmer's Detour. So what exactly is My Winnipeg? Well, it ain't a doc, it ain't fiction, and it certainly ain't no Hallmark card!
Guy Maddin (b. 1956) has an impressive slate of films, including Tales from the Gimli Hospital (1988), Careful (1992), Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary (2002), The Saddest Music in the World (2003), and Cowards Bend the Knee (US Premiere at Tribeca, 2003). Both his feature film Careful (1992) and his short Hearts of the World (2003) were named best experimental film by the National Society of Film Critics. His most recent works include My Dad is 100 Years Old (TFF 2006) and Brand Upon the Brain! (2006), which he presented in Toronto, New York, Berlin, and San Francisco with the live accompaniment of an orchesra, foley effects, narration, and a castrato.