Canadian experimental filmmaker and teacher Rick Hancox’s rhapsodic, poetic documentary captures his overnight train trip home from Toronto to Prince Edward Island in December 1975, and the warm, universal glow of a holiday gathering. With freewheeling 16mm camerawork Hancox reveals family relationships, the connections between landscape and memory, and the rituals of Christmas, travel and homecoming – all with a distinctly personal (and Canadian) flavor.
Hancox says this first-person approach “is literally the way I see, and this kind of style is something not just allowable but crucial to the autobiographical film.” More than just autobiographical though, it is a family film in every sense, with Hancox’s kid sister and brother-in-law subbing in as crew and interviewers, and his parents at first resistant, then happily clowning for the camera. Of course, strangers join in the fun too, especially his fellow travelers in the very 20th-century adventure of the sleeper train.
“I knew it would be important to document this train ritual, something which was slowly disappearing, along with other traditions. By using the camera to record intimate (but not necessarily important) details, I wanted to share the subjective experience of the trip itself, and help make the film relevant for future generations.” RICK HANCOX
His more participatory cinéma-vérité is akin to that of Unit B of the National Film Board of Canada, which in turn was inspired by French filmmakers Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin. As Hancox puts it, “a ‘fly in the soup’ approach rather than observational, ‘fly-on-the wall’ documentary”. His combination of ethnography with personal subjectivity and dedication to recording the disappearing traditions of Canadian life especially recalls Pierre Perrault and Michel Brault, whose classic Pour la suite du monde (1963) treats whaling with the same affection and rambunctious energy that Hancox brings to rail travel. Other touchstones for the film include Robert Frank and Hancox’s countryman Michael Snow (whose The Living Room was featured on Le Cinéma Club last week).
Hancox is a major figure in Canadian experimental documentary, influential for films like House Movie (1972) and Landfall (1983), and for his teaching of a new generation of filmmakers at Sheridan College. His contributions to others’ work include assisting on Michael Snow’s Rameau’s Nephew (1974). Among his other acclaimed films is Moose Jaw: There’s a Future in Our Past (1992), another study of travel, homecoming and Canadian identity.
- Credits for
- HOME FOR CHRISTMAS
- Rick Hancox
- Scot Denton
- Rick Hancox
- Rick Hancox
- assisted by
- Janis Cole, Ron Dann, Ted Gzebb, Tom Knott, Lorne Marin, Robbie McNeil, Gord Mills, Dave Ritchie, Cara Scott, Chuck Scott, Lisa Scott, Rick Smith, Bob Wengle, Vince Werbicki & Liz Visschedyk