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Richard Hancox

Director, Producer, Screenwriter, Editor, Cinematographer, Sound, Music
(b. January 1, 1946 Toronto, Ontario)

Rick Hancox is an important figure in the development of experimental film in Canada – both for his filmmaking and his influence. From 1973 to 1985 he taught at Sheridan College, where he and his colleague Jeffrey Paull were instrumental in shaping the sensibilities of a new generation of filmmakers. Hancox’s students included the documentarians Janis Cole and Holly Dale and experimental filmmakers Mike Hoolboom, Philip Hoffman and Richard Kerr.

Inspired by the American independent filmmaker George Semsel, with whom he had studied both at the University of Prince Edward Island, and later, the University of Ohio in Athens, where he received an M.F.A., Hancox encouraged his students to investigate questions of time, memory, landscape and documentary convention. He also explored the relationship of images to words in film, whether spoken or as super-titles on screen. Arguably, the trend toward personal cinema and experimental documentary in Canadian experimental cinema in the 1980s began with Hancox, thus indirectly establishing what has come to be known as the Escarpment School. In 1986, Hancox joined the communication studies department at Concordia University.

Writing for The Canadian Encyclopedia, Lianne McLarty suggested that "Hancox often blends the poetic with the cinematic, as in the trilogy of 'poetry films' Waterworx(A Clear Day and No Memories) (1982), Landfall (1983) and Beach Events (1984). He is also known for autobiographical documentaries best illustrated by Home for Christmas (1978)." In her extended study of his work Richard Hancox (Art Gallery of Ontario, 1990), McLarty had written that the "general movement in Hancox's films has been from the personal to the collective environment." Indeed, his work might be seen to evolve through the observation of the banalities of day-to-day life toward a surreal feeling for the separateness of landscape and the alienating effects of our technological world.

Arguing that the modernist movement in the arts largely bypassed Canada, critics like Michael Dorland have suggested that experimental filmmakers such as Hancox sometimes retreat to nostalgia, which he defines as "the longing for a past that never was from the perspective of a present one cannot accept (Richard Hancox, 1990)." Dorland continues, "the Hancoxian universe compels one 'outside our time' into irony."

Hancox’s autobiographical films move from the irony of self within landscape (House Movie, 1972; Home for Christmas) through aspirations toward transcendence, with the help of the poetic texts of Wallace Stevens and D.G. Jones (Waterworx, Landfall) to a return to the irony of self within landscape — but with a difference. Moose Jaw:There's a Future in Our Past (1992) documents Hancox's return to one of the places where he grew up, as if to investigate the changes that have occurred since this once thriving town lost its railway. Although spectators are allowed to see many characteristics about this space — the remnants of the old railway station, the Eaton's department store, the annual Kinsman parade — Hancox presents himself largely as a shadow, cut off from a living relationship with this past. He ends up as just another exhibit in the transportation museum, both trapped and bored by his own quest, suggesting that among the many ironies in this particular film, the greatest resides in its title.

Along with his teaching and professional musical activities, Hancox is currently working on All That Is Solid — a film about the death of his father.

Film and video work includes

Rose, 1968 (director)
Cab 16, 1969 (director; cinematographer; editor)
I, a Dog, 1970 (director)
Tall Dark Stranger, 1970 (director; cinematographer; editor)
Next to Me, 1971 (director; producer)
Rooftops, 1971 (director)
House Movie, 1972 (director; cinematographer; editor)
Wild Sync, 1973 (director)
Home for Christmas, 1978 (director; cinematographer; editor; music)
This is the Title of My Film, 1979 (actor)
Zum Ditter, 1979 (director; writer; cinematographer; editor; producer)
Reunion in Dunnville, 1981 (director; writer; co-cinematographer with Jim Buchanan, Phil Hoffman; co-editor with Tom Knott; producer; sound)
Waterworx (A Clear Day and No Memories), 1982 (director; cinematographer; editor)
Landfall, 1983 (director; producer)
Beach Events, 1984 (director; producer)
All That Is Solid, 2003 (director; in production)