The Scent of Green Papaya (Mui du du xanh) directed by Anh Hung Tran. For more information about this image please see CFE > Image Credits.
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Moose Jaw: There's a Future in Our Past

Moose Jaw; Moosejaw
57 min., colour, 16mm
Director Richard Hancox
Producer Richard Hancox
Writer Richard Hancox
Cinematographer Geoff YatesRichard HancoxChris Gallagher
Editor Richard Hancox
Sound Richard HancoxDavid Frost
Music Richard Hancox
Snapshot taken circa 1950
Principal Cast Mac the MooseBrian SwansonBob BrownridgeRichard Hancox
Production Company Rick Hancox Productions
Moose Jaw: There's a future in our past was quickly recognized as a major work in Canadian experimental- documentary filmmaking when it was released in 1992. In the Art Gallery of Ontario retrospective catalogue Richard Hancox (1990), Arthur Kroker declared “[it's] already a Canadian classic.”

Near the beginning of the film, Hancox sets up his film as a personal journey by constructing a montage of family photographs accompanied by nostalgic music. His journey — returning to the city he grew up in — rapidly broadens to include a consideration of Moose Jaw’s contemporary predicament. Once a key juncture on the cross-Canada railway and the largest city in Saskatchewan, Moose Jaw was in a steep economic decline by the time Hancox arrived to document it for the film. Municipal government and local entrepreneurs desperate to find alternative sources for economic development began a process of “museumization” (Kroker’s term), adopting the slogan “There’s a Future in Our Past.” The film can profitably be compared to American filmmaker Michael Moore’s well-known Roger and Me (1989), which uncovers similar developments in the former automotive industrial centre of Flint, Michigan.

Hancox includes all the elements of a sentimental journey — old photos, family reminiscences, old-timers' testimonies of Moose Jaw at the height of its glory. But the film’s tone is analytical, astringent and irreverent, particularly in its obtrusive use of non-diegetic sound and its framing of the city’s new “attractions,” such as a giant artificial moose erected near the highway by local “moose boosters” and a proliferation of small, often ramshackle museums.

Moose Jaw remains a frontier city, but is now on the frontier of a postmodern process in which a kitsch version of history offers the only viable economy — the economy of the roadside attraction.

By Chris Gehman
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