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Mike Hoolboom

Director, Producer, Editor, Sound
(b. January 1, 1959 Toronto, Ontario)

Considered the finest experimental filmmaker – or in his words – "fringe filmmaker" of his generation, the prolific and mercurial Hoolboom has made over 50 films and videos since 1980. (Exact numbers vary as Hoolboom notoriously prunes and reshapes his filmography: cutting some films, merging others and completely removing others from circulation.) He has also played a major curatorial and critical role in the Canadian avant-garde film community, working as the fringe film officer at the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre from 1988 to 1990, where he started the now defunct magazine The Independent Eye. In 1989, with Jonathan Pollard, Barbara Sternberg, Philip Hoffman and Gary Popovich, he formed the artist-run exhibition group Pleasure Dome, devoted to fringe film and video. He has also collaborated with some of the foremost experimental film- and videomakers in Canada: Kika Thorne (Two, 1990), Steve Sanguedolce (Mexico, 1992), Ann Marie Fleming (Man, 1991; The New Man, 1992) and Shawn Chapelle (Shooting Blanks, 1995).

The son of a Dutch father and a Dutch-Indonesian mother, Hoolboom began making movies with his father’s Super 8 before studying media arts at Oakville's Sheridan College from 1980 to 1983. Hoolboom’s early work includes dozens of films of various lengths and different sensibilities that, according to critic Geoff Pevere, “demonstrated a consuming interest in navigating the outer limits of perception, of language, of self, of mechanical reproduction, of bodily sensation and experience (and most recently, and surprisingly, of the discourse of nationhood).”

Hoolboom employed many traditional experimental film strategies — hand processing; altered found-footage and home movies; charged, often poetic and ruminative intertitles and voice-over — but, ironically, it was the 1986 White Museum that established his reputation. “Ironically” because it’s a film that’s not quite a film. Almost devoid of images, it is 32 minutes of clear leader accompanied by an audio collage comprised of TV ads, pop music and a wry voice-over, which muses about (among other thing) the expense of making movies, the tedium and joy of lining up to see them and the gulf between sound and image and being and nothingness.

This gulf became more significant and more urgent when Hoolboom learned in 1989 that he had contracted HIV. Hardly succumbing to the illness, the already prodigious filmmaker became almost Fassbinder-ean in his work ethic; between 1989 and 1995, he made 27 films, including the ambitious Brechtian satire, Kanada (1993), starring Babz Chula, Gabrielle Rose and Sky Gilbert. The filmmaker’s fascination with the body (exemplified in Eat, 1989, and From Home, 1988) became a fascination with its impermanence. House of Pain (1995), a horrific collection of four shorts obsessed with bodily fluids and the fluidity of sexuality, resembles the avant-garde classic Flaming Creatures (Jack Smith, 1963) remade by Pasolini. In a more pensive but still angry tone, Hoolboom produced two films that deal explicitly with AIDS: Frank’s Cock (1993), starring Callum Keith Rennie (who was later dubbed “Canada’s Brad Pitt,” once he made the leap to big-budget films and TV), and Letters from Home (1996), inspired by a speech given by the late AIDS activist Vito Russo. Both films received the NFB’s John Spotton Award for best Canadian short film at the Toronto International Film Festival; just two of the more than 30 international awards Hoolboom has received for his work. He has also written two books, Inside the Pleasure Dome: Fringe Film in Canada (2001) and Plague Years: A Life in Underground Movies (1998), and his writings on film have appeared in numerous anthologies and periodicals.

Film and video work includes

College, 1981 (director; producer)
Now, Yours, 1981 (director; producer)
Self Portrait With Pipe and Bandaged Ear, 1981 (director; producer)
The Big Show, 1984 (director)
Life Drawing One: Permanence Extending the Movement of Accommodation, 1984 (director)
Phonograph, 1984 (director)
Song for Mixed Choir, 1984 (director)
Book of Lies, 1985 (director; producer)
From Home, 1988 (director; writer; co-cinematographer with Michael Dyer and Philip Hoffman; editor; sound; music; producer)
Grid, 1988 (director; producer)
Svetlana, 1988 (director; co-writer with Andrew Brouse; co-cinematographer with Mychol Dyer and Philip Hoffman; editor; sound; music; producer)
Bomen, 1989 (director; producer)
Brand, 1989 (director; producer)
Eat, 1989 (director; producer)
Was, 1989 (director; producer; actor)
Fat Corner, 1990 (director; producer)
Install, 1990 (director; producer)
Southern Pine Inspection Bureau No. 9, 1990 (director; cinematographer; editor; sound; producer)
Towards, 1990 (director)
Two, 1990 (co-director, co-producer, co-writer, co-cinematographer and co-editor with Kika Thorne; actor)
Man, 1991 (co-director, co-producer, co-writer and co-editor with Ann Marie Fleming; co-cinematographer with Steve Sanguedolce)
Modern Times, 1991 (director; producer)
Pioneers of X-Ray Technology, 1991 (co-cinematographer with Ann Marie Fleming; sound)
Red Shift, 1991 (director; producer)
Careful Breaking, 1992 (director; editor; producer)
Disneyland in June, 1992 (director; producer)
In the Cinema No One Speaks Unless They Have Something to Say While in Real Life it's Just the Opposite, 1992 (director; writer; editor; sound; producer)
Mexico, 1992 (co-director, co-producer, co-cinematographer and co-editor with Steve Sanguedolce; writer)
The New Man, 1992 (co-director, co-producer, co-writer and co-editor with Ann Marie Fleming; cinematographer; sound) Steps to Harbour, 1992 (director)
Escape in Canada, 1993 (director; producer)
Indusium, 1993 (director; producer)
It's Me, Again, 1993 (co-cinematographer with Greg Middleton, Ann Marie Fleming)
Kanada, 1993 (director; writer; editor; producer)
One Plus One, 1993 (co-director, co-producer and co-writer with Jason Boughton, Kathryn Ramey; cinematographer; sound; music)
Shiteater, 1993 (director; producer)
Justify My Love, 1994 (director; producer)
Precious, 1994 (director; producer)
Valentine's Day, 1994 (director; writer; editor; producer)
Shooting Blanks, 1995 (co-director with Shawn Chapelle)
House of Pain, 1995 (director; co-writer with Paul Couillard; cinematographer; editor; producer)
Hey Madonna, 1998 (director)
In the Future, 1998 (director; writer; producer)
Panic Bodies, 1998 (director; writer; cinematographer; editor; producer)
Secret, 2001 (director)
Imitations of Life, 2003 (director; writer; producer; cinematographer; sound)
In the Dark, 2003 (director)