Canadian Frame(lines)


Artist Talk: Sunday May 15, 2 p.m.
Reception: Sunday May 15, 3 – 4:30 p.m.
Deep Cove Films Screening: Saturday June 18, 2 p.m.

Seymour Art Gallery presents an immersive video exhibition of 74 films made by the residents of eleven small and rural Canadian towns as part of the Canadian Frame(lines) community filmmaking project. With the guidance of BC-based filmmakers Alexandra Caulfield and Ryder Thomas White, each participant in this project was given basic instruction, a camera, a roll of black and white Super 8mm film, and creative freedom to make a movie about their community and what they thought of when they thought about home. What resulted was a collection of images as diverse as the country’s population. In tandem with the exhibition, the filmmakers behind this initiative will work with locals in Deep Cove to produce their own 3-minute films, which we will screen on the last day of the exhibition.

What makes a country distinct? Many places in the world find the question of national identity fairly easy to answer, whether it comes from a long and well-defined history, shared struggle, or predominant cultural themes. But what about Canada? Just the question is partially an answer in and of itself – one of the most persistent Canadian characteristics seems to be a perennial re-investigation of selfhood despite a just-as-elusive conclusion. In most cases, broad strokes have to suffice in order to apply to such a huge, sparsely-populated landmass. With five time zones, three oceans, and around 7,500 km to cross, it’s no surprise that Canada defies concrete definition.

It was with the same query that Alexandra Caulfield and Ryder Thomas White started ‘Canadian Frame(lines)’ in 2013. As filmmakers and documentarians, they felt that personal stories would give insight into national identity, particularly if they came from people outside of major population centres across Canada. They modified an old school bus to be a mobile living space/processing lab, and hit the road – working with participants in small communities across Canada. Part of the goal of ‘Canadian Frame(lines)’ was for Caulfield and White as facilitators to be as distanced from the creative process of the films as possible. They wanted the individual movies to bear the marks of their creator’s influence, to carry a direct relationship to the person who made them.

By teaching the participants basic cinematography, how to operate an analog Super 8mm film camera, and how to chemically develop the film, Caulfield and White gave participants creative freedom, agency, and the tools needed to independently craft their own short films. The medium did come with several limitations: each film is about 3 minutes and 14 seconds, black and white, and silent.

Each community’s body of work, then, became a collaborative effort that united several people in the process. Caulfield and White don’t claim ownership of the films in the exhibition – they are composed by people from all walks of life all over this land.

Though the project began with a highly structured, intentional approach towards understanding the national identity of Canada, Caulfield and White began to realize that what really matters to people about their country is what affects them personally – what home means. They hope that these films, a diverse collection of meaningful images, can together contribute to the national identity discussion.