York film professor is the subject of a five-part retrospective

York film Professor Philip Hoffman is the subject of a five-part retrospective by the Canadian Film Institute (CFI) in Ottawa, titled "Rivers of Time: A Retrospective of the Films of Philip Hoffman", as well as an accompanying publication by CFI about Hoffman’s work, also called Rivers of Time.

Right: A still from Philip Hoffman’s film What these ashes wanted

The retrospective, which began March 26, runs until April 23 with screenings one day each week at 7:30pm at Club Saw, 67 Nicholas St. in Ottawa. Hailed as "one of Canada’s most important and celebrated filmmakers", Hoffman will be in Ottawa for part three of the retrospective – Nothing is Finished – on Wednesday, April 9, to introduce and discuss his work. Admission is pay-what-you-can.

Closer to home, Hoffman’s recent short, ever present going past – a seven-minute cine-poem about the making of gardens, films and poems – is playing at Toronto’s Images Festival on Saturday, April 5, at 9pm. It is part of Ruptures Restructured, an international short film program, at the Joseph Workman Theatre, 1001 Queen St. West, Toronto. Hoffman will share the playbill with fellow Toronto filmmakers Barbara Sternberg and John Price as well as Montréal’s Karl Lemieux, New York City’s Jennifer Reeves and Chicago’s Ben Russell. Admission is pay-what-you-can.

The book, Rivers of Time, is comprised of essays and reflections on Hoffman and his work by his peers and fellow luminaries from both film and education circles. Illustrated with images from his productions, the book also includes an extensive interview with the filmmaker himself and a complete listing of his works.

Left: A still from Philip Hoffman’s film Technologic Ordering

As a filmmaker of memory and association, Hoffman creates highly-personal, yet universal works, which interweave fiction and documentary in an experimental "diarist" cinema. He has screened his work on four continents and has been the subject of more than a dozen retrospectives, including the centrepiece series at the 2001 Images Festival for Independent Film and Video in Toronto and the San Francisco Cinematheque’s Passing Through: A Philip Hoffman Retrospective in 2004. In Sept. 2006, a two-part survey of his works launched a special six-month series, presented by Anthology Film Archives in New York City, featuring productions by Canadian artists.

Above: Philip Hoffman

The Rivers of Time film retrospective offers an overview of Hoffman’s arresting productions over the past 30 years. It unspools in five sections, grouping films within distinctive thematic and visual approaches. The final three parts of the retrospective are as follows:


  • ?O, Zoo! (The Making of a Fiction Film) (16mm, 23 min. 1986) Ostensibly a film about the making of Peter Greenaway’s A Zed and Two Noughts, ?O, Zoo! is a subversive engagement with documentary convention and first-person filmmaking.
  • Opening Series 1 (16mm, 10 min. 1992) Described by Hoffman as a film about "looking and listening to light," Opening Series 1 is composed of silent, static long takes shot at home and in travel, structured in a three-shot rhythm.
  • What these ashes wanted (16mm, 55 min. 2001) Bridging the divide between the personal and the public, this is a document of grief and loss, centering on the death of the filmmaker’s wife, Marian McMahon. Composed of fragments of telephone conversations, video diaries and hand-processed film, the film-essay probes the point at which death and cinema coincide.


  • river (16mm, 15 min. 1979-1989) This meditation on the interrelationship of nature and technology, stasis and flux was shot and constructed over a 10-year period. The film returns to the same river only to find that, of course, it is not the same river.
  • Kokoro is for Heart (16mm, 7 min. 1999) Shikatani narrates as various images, among them a gravel pit, merge into an associational meditation on how images affect reality. The film asks the question: "What is nature?"
  • Technilogic Ordering (16mm, 30 min. 1994) A study of war and representation, this diary of the Gulf War is composed of images culled from the television and manipulated by VCR.
  • Chimera (16mm, 15 min. 1996) Composed of disparate shots taken from the world –London, Helsinki, Egypt, Leningrad, Uluru and Sydney – this film is an experimental travelogue about people and places bound together by, and in, images.


  • Somewhere Between Jalostotitlan and Encarnacion (16mm, 6 min. 1984) This cinematic travelogue traverses Mexico, Toronto and Colorado. The absent centre of the film is the image of a young Mexican boy’s death; the filmmaker questions the ethics of capturing such an image.
  • Kitchener-Berlin (16mm, 34 min. 1990) A portrait of two cities divided by geography and alphabet but united in repressed history and the question of home, this film is divided into two movements combining archival film, television footage, home movies and documentary material to sculpt a multi-layered cinematic experience.
  • Destroying Angel (16mm, 32 min. 1998; co-created by Wayne Salazar) A narrator confronted by his own mortality explores the interwoven tapestry of past and present, illness and oppression, that is the human condition.

For more information, visit the Canadian Film Institute Web site.