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Exploring the Urban Landscape of Winnipeg Through Visual Narratives

Question on Photography

Description of the Photo

Pictured in monochrome is a senior who concentrates on the minutest detail of his motorcade. It is set down on a very plain garage or car park, shuttered with wooden doors that swing apart like a shield on either side, exposing the vehicle. An average-aged man leans on the bonnet and is keen on hands-on maintenance (Gillmor, 2017). Broad daylight took that picture to highlight the details that occur inside that image. Its wood framework depicts an elemental quality not typical of community spaces found in North End; Winnipeg.

Context and Setting

The viewpoint presents a picture of a house setting where the bond between people and vehicles is shown within the northern part of the community. These elements contribute to a functional narrative comprising wood garages with sideways opening doors, utilitarian bulbs hanging from the roofs, and so on. It is a very old-fashioned car that signifies strength and stability – the values most desired in Turkish culture.

Documentation Aspects

The picture is more than just a recording of a boring everyday event in the daily lives of people living in the north end. Focusing his attention on the car demonstrates a self-reliant mindset of self-sufficiency in society. The wooden doors indicate an enclosed space and protection for personal activities within the urban setting.

Aesthetic Aspects

The lack of colour in the composition makes the play of light and shadow stand out more, making it an evergreen image (Gillmor, 2017). The selection of the straight, untangled perspective fits within a documentary style and lends itself to presenting the scene as authentic. The lonely figure on the wooden background creates a captivating view with its shifted number plate on the side and a swinging light above it.

Tension Between Documentary and Aesthetic

As John Paskievich calls it, the photograph skillfully negotiates the strain between documentary and lyric elements. It combines documenting a practice moment of automobile maintenance with its lyrical character by creating a meticulous composition of visual aspects (Gillmor, 2017). The interaction between the man and the car speaks of the ordinary functions of human life, and the artistic choice enriches the photograph, converting it into what can be conceived of as a visual essay on everyday circumstances.


This photo is particularly moving and shows one instant in the northern part of Winnipeg, symbolizing ordinary life. These collectively represent a story of endurance, independence, and ordinary glory, interweaving the black and white medium, the humbleness of the wood-built house, and the person’s relationship with their car. This is an instance that confirms the photographer’s skill in capturing the interface between the ordinary and extraordinary, which echoes what has been described by John Paskievich regarding photography.

Question on Graphic Novel

Tasha Spillett’s Surviving the City, Volume 1, page 52

Contribution to the Understanding of Winnipeg’s History

This page significantly contributes to comprehending Winnipeg’s history by illuminating the enduring impact of historical events and systemic challenges on the Indigenous population, focusing on women and two-spirit individuals. It unveils the intersectionality of Indigenous rights and gender-based violence, offering a poignant glimpse into the struggles faced by these communities (Spillett, 2019). By contextualizing Winnipeg’s history, the narrative underscores the ongoing fight for justice, revealing the city as a backdrop to a larger narrative of resilience and resistance. This portrayal acknowledges the historical injustices and emphasizes the urgent need for societal awareness, understanding, and meaningful change within the city’s historical continuum.


This poignant narrative on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit People (MMIWG2S) transcends its pages to become a profound commentary on the historical struggles within Winnipeg. By delving into the disproportionate risks faced by Indigenous women and two-spirit individuals, it exposes the deep-rooted impact of colonialism, racism, and misogyny. The artwork, though not directly accessible, likely employs a mix of realistic and symbolic elements to amplify the emotional resonance. Through the lens of statistics, symbols, and key moments, the narrative becomes a call for justice and a testament to the resilience of Indigenous communities. This page, situated within Winnipeg’s history, is a powerful reminder of the ongoing struggle for Indigenous rights and a plea for societal understanding and change.

Question on Film

My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin, 2006)


I selected “My Winnipeg” for its captivating storytelling that masterfully interweaves autobiography, documentary, and fiction. Guy Maddin’s profound personal connection to Winnipeg infuses the film with a poetic and dreamlike quality, allowing viewers to embark on an immersive journey through the director’s memories and the city’s history. Maddin becomes a guide, not just narrating the tales of Winnipeg but embodying the city’s essence. This profoundly personal perspective offers a visceral and emotionally resonant experience, inviting audiences to explore the nooks and crannies of Winnipeg through Maddin’s eyes (Maddin, 2006). The film becomes a canvas on which Maddin paints a portrait of the city, blurring the lines between reality and imagination to heighten the emotional impact. In essence, “My Winnipeg” is not just a documentary about a city; it is a love letter, a reverie, and a testament to the power of personal narratives in shaping our understanding of a place.


In “My Winnipeg,” Guy Maddin crafts a cinematic reverie that intricately navigates Winnipeg’s labyrinthine streets and nostalgic corridors. The film unfolds as a narrative tapestry, skillfully weaving together the threads of reality and imagination, constantly blurring the lines between fact and fiction. Maddin’s lens becomes a transformative tool, turning the cityscape into a living, breathing character endowed with idiosyncrasies and enigmas. The film breathes life into the urban landscape through a mesmerizing interplay of surreal imagery and evocative personal reflections, infusing it with a rich tapestry of memories and emotions. As the narrative unfolds, Winnipeg emerges as a backdrop and a protagonist with its quirks and mysteries waiting to be unravelled. Maddin’s storytelling transcends traditional documentary conventions, offering a poetic and subjective exploration that transforms the city into a realm where reality and dreams coalesce in a captivating dance.

Formal Aspects

“My Winnipeg” is a distinctive hybrid, seamlessly melding the realms of documentary and fiction through a creative blend of reenactments, archival footage, and carefully staged scenes. This formal fusion creates a unique narrative texture that transcends traditional storytelling boundaries (Maddin, 2006). Notably, Guy Maddin’s visible presence within the film is compelling, blurring the typically clear-cut lines between director and subject. His inclusion adds a layer of intimacy, accentuating the profoundly personal nature of the narrative and positioning the film as a subjective exploration of both the city and the filmmaker’s own experiences.

Contributing to Understanding the City

“My Winnipeg” contributes a singular lens through which to understand the city, transcending the conventional portrayal of Winnipeg as a mere physical setting. Instead, the film portrays the city as a living, breathing entity with its tales and mysteries, transforming it into a character with depth and personality. Guy Maddin’s journey serves as a profound and intimate exploration tool, allowing viewers to navigate the intricate layers of Winnipeg’s history and character. Through Maddin’s eyes, the city becomes a canvas for collective memories and shared experiences, emphasizing the interconnectedness between the filmmaker’s narrative and the broader cultural fabric of Winnipeg.

Visual Culture

Maddin’s “My Winnipeg” intricately taps into the city’s visual culture by immersing the film in a tapestry of stylized and surreal imagery. Through dreamlike sequences and artistic visuals, the film transcends the mundane, creating a heightened and almost mythic representation of Winnipeg (Maddin, 2006). The deliberate infusion of surreal elements becomes a storytelling device, elevating the cityscape into a realm where reality and imagination seamlessly coalesce. This artistic approach not only enhances the film’s aesthetic appeal but also serves as a powerful means to convey Winnipeg’s emotional and cultural essence.

Cattle Call (M. Maryniuk/M. Rankin, 2008)

Film Selection Rationale

I curated the films in “Cattle Call” to capture the very soul of Winnipeg, aiming to unveil hidden stories and facets that shape the city’s distinctive identity. Each film in the selection offers a unique perspective, contributing to a mosaic that intricately reflects the complexity of urban life in Winnipeg. The diversity of voices and experiences showcased in the program serves as a lens through which I hope to foster a deeper understanding of the city, spanning its rich past, vibrant present, and potential future.


“Cattle Call” (2008), a documentary film by M. Maryniuk and M. Rankin, immerses viewers in Winnipeg’s vibrant world of livestock auctions. Serving as the program’s cornerstone, the film unfolds through a lens that carefully examines these auctions’ economic and cultural significance. With meticulous detail, it offers a compelling glimpse into a lesser-known facet of the city’s identity, unravelling the unique dynamics and stories within the livestock trade.

Formal Aspects

“Cattle Call” is a cinematic journey delving into the heart of Winnipeg, revealing the intricate layers of the city’s identity through the lens of livestock auctions. The curated film selection, a collaboration by M. Maryniuk and M. Rankin in 2008, strategically combines documentary and fiction, live-action, and animation to explore Winnipeg’s essence (Maryniuk & Rankin, 2008). Each film was meticulously chosen for its ability to unveil hidden narratives, contributing to a mosaic that captures the complexity of urban life in Winnipeg. The formal aspects, ranging from grounded documentaries to imaginative fiction, mirror the city’s diverse nature, refusing to be confined to a singular genre and instead embracing the multifaceted spirit of Winnipeg.

Contributions to Understanding the City

“Cattle Call” as a whole enriches our understanding of Winnipeg by shedding light on its hidden corners, diverse communities, and unique cultural practices. The films collectively serve as a cultural archive, documenting the city’s evolution and providing a platform for voices that may be overlooked in mainstream discourse (Maryniuk & Rankin, 2008). The program aims to challenge preconceptions and present a more nuanced and comprehensive view of Winnipeg through these narratives.

Visual Culture of Winnipeg

The films draw on the visual culture of Winnipeg by incorporating its landscapes, architecture, and people as integral elements of the storytelling. Whether through the lens of a documentary camera capturing the vibrancy of the city’s markets or an animator reimagining its streets, each film weaves the visual tapestry of Winnipeg into its narrative, contributing to a visual language that speaks uniquely to the city’s identity.

Springtime in Greenland (John Paizs, 1982)

Film Selection Rationale

My decision to include “Springtime in Greenland” stems from a desire to challenge the norm and offer audiences a cinematic experience transcending conventional boundaries. With its blend of live-action and surreal elements, this film presents Winnipeg in a dreamlike state, inviting viewers to question the limitations of reality within an urban context (Paizs, 1982). The whimsical encounters within the city become a metaphorical exploration of the unique and often overlooked aspects of Winnipeg’s identity.


“Springtime in Greenland” by John Paizs takes us on a surreal journey through the streets of Winnipeg. Blurring the lines between reality and fantasy, the film follows a protagonist who experiences a series of bizarre and whimsical encounters with the city’s inhabitants. This cinematic gem offers a unique perspective on urban life, challenging conventional storytelling norms.

Formal Aspects

Paiz’s film falls within the realm of fiction but employs elements of surrealism and fantasy, creating a dreamscape that mirrors the peculiarities of Winnipeg. The live-action and unconventional narrative techniques contribute to the film’s distinct formal qualities.

Contribution to Understanding the City

“Springtime in Greenland” adds an avant-garde layer to our understanding of Winnipeg, inviting viewers to question the boundaries of reality within an urban context (Paizs, 1982). The film departs from traditional representations, offering a playful and thought-provoking exploration of the city’s idiosyncrasies.

Drawing on Visual Culture

Paizs draws on the visual culture of Winnipeg by infusing the film with local landscapes and landmarks, albeit transformed through a surreal lens. The city becomes a canvas for artistic expression, challenging viewers to see beyond the ordinary and appreciate the hidden wonders of Winnipeg.


The combination of “Springtime in Greenland” (John Paizs, 1982), “Cattle Call” (M. Maryniuk/M. Rankin, 2008), and “My Winnipeg” (Guy Maddin, 2006) presents a unique lens through which to explore the city. Though diverse in style and narrative, each film contributes to a collective understanding of the urban landscape. “Springtime in Greenland” introduces an element of whimsy and imagination, offering a surreal perspective that challenges conventional depictions of city life. “Cattle Call,” with its mockumentary format, provides a satirical glimpse into the entertainment industry, highlighting the city’s role as a backdrop for diverse narratives. Meanwhile, “My Winnipeg” offers a personal and nostalgic reflection on the filmmaker’s hometown, layering the urban environment with a rich tapestry of memories and myth. Together, these films weave a tapestry transcending conventional representations of the city, offering a nuanced and multifaceted portrait. The juxtaposition of the fantastical, satirical, and nostalgic elements allows viewers to appreciate the city as a dynamic entity shaped by tangible and intangible forces. It suggests that a city is not merely a physical space but a repository of stories, dreams, and collective memories.


Gillmor, Alison. “An Interview with John Paskievich.” in The North End Revisited. U of Manitoba P, 2017.155-63.

Maddin, G. (Director). (2006). My Winnipeg

Maryniuk, M., & Rankin, M. (Directors). (2008). Cattle Call [Film].

Paizs, J. (Director). (1982). Springtime in Greenland [Film].

Spillett, T. (2019). Surviving the city (Vol. 1). Portage & Main Press.


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