Acclaimed filmmaker Guy Maddin in Ottawa to screen films and talk craft

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Acclaimed filmmaker Guy Maddin in Ottawa to screen films and talk craft

Acclaimed Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin is in Ottawa for a special screening of his work this weekend and to impart his decades of wisdom upon aspiring young filmmakers.

"They may be hard to guide, because filmmaking isn't immediately remunerative, and has many discouraging moments," Maddin told host Hallie Cotnam on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning. 

"It's really intoxicating and fun. Luckily I planned my life so poorly, that by the time I started making movies in my late 20s and got my first feature out at age 32, I had no other choice. I had just put all my eggs in one basket," he added, with a self-deprecating chuckle.

From that basket, though, emerged an award-winning career spanning three decades that garnered the Winnipeg-born Maddin an appointment to the Order of Canada in 2012.

His renowned 2007 film My Winnipeg — a surrealist mockumentary about his home city — received a perfect rating from legendary film critic Roger Ebert, who also called Maddin's work an "acquired taste."

Delighted and humoured by Ebert's review and description, Maddin calls his films "little autobiographical, dream-like primitively put-together what-nots."

'I just sort of went garbage picking'

He's in Ottawa as part of the Canadian Film Institute's Canadian Masters series, which includes a public discussion Friday evening at the Arts Court Theatre and a screening of his selected works Saturday evening at Carleton University.

Maddin turned to film as a career after working as a bank manager and house painter. He often uses classic filmmaking techniques, shooting in black and white and recreating silent-era style films.

"Film is such a young medium, but it's not only an art form, it's an industry every bit as much," he said. 

"And in its industrial haste, it had discarded a lot of its vocabulary units while they were still in perfectly good working order. And no one else wanted them. I just sort of went garbage picking along the roadside of film history, and picked up these units."

While Maddin believes he uses more conventions from the past than other filmmakers, he considers himself a contemporary filmmaker as well. He's looking forward to sharing his experiences here in Ottawa.

"People have called me brave for taking on this crazy, quixotic career, but it was anything but bravery. I was just terrified that this one basket I had put my eggs in would fall apart or be taken from me."