Filmoteca de Galicia | Saturday June 8th | 7:30 pm | Free entry to all venues until full capacity. It will not be possible to enter the venues after the screening has started

Rhayne Vermette | 2021 | Canada | 16 mm to HD | 80 min

As a party wanders into the night, word arrives that Renée has emerged from obscurity. This cataclysmic moment ignites Modeste’s awkward reunion with his older sibling. Renée has been missing for years and her presence unsettles the family, which also includes her own daughter, Athene. As Renée begins to form her dreams from fragments of her past, ominous premonitions disrupt the land. Shot over the course of two years, Ste. Anne traces an allegorical reclamation of land through personal, symbolic and historical sites all across Treaty 1 Territory, heartland of the Métis Nation. (Rhayne Vermette)



A house is not necessarily a home, but in the collective imagination one thing gets identified with the other. The spaces that have been inhabited but which now only exist as ruins, the ones that exist here and now, and the houses that potentially may be built are all, in a way, the theme of almost all of Rhayne Vermette’s films. From her film collages and animated films to her fiction Ste. Anne, projects of very different calibres, this idea gradually changes and develops based on the same process for creating each shot, each brick-fragment that will go on to form the whole.

There is some biographical information that is of interest when delving into Vermette’s work. One is her origins: Vermette was born in a rural town in Manitoba, a central province of Canada with a climate of extreme cold in winter and stifling heat in summer, and with a particular landscape and idiosyncrasy. The most important town in the province is Winnipeg (Guy Maddin’s hometown and home to The Winnipeg Film Group, with which Vermette has maintained a close but critical relationship). Vermette, who vehemently states that she will never leave Manitoba, belongs to the indigenous Métis people, an independent ethnic group recognised since the 18th century resulting from the encounters between First Nation women with British and French-Canadian employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company (here the colonists’ imagery comes up against the more sordid side of colonisation). In other words, it is a complex and also fragmentary identity. The third fact to take into account is that Vermette studied Architecture, a discipline that she left at one point to dedicate herself to film. Her first approach to cinema was through animation and collage (because of the miracles that can be worked thanks to these techniques); in a way, like someone who builds models of impossible houses on strips of celluloid. Finally, Vermette repeatedly affirms that the person who has taught her the most important things about editing is Madlib, a Californian MC and DJ, based on the idea of sampling. 

Having said that, the first programme we are dedicating to her focuses on the period beginning in 2012 with her first films, and ends with the amazing Domus (very rightly dedicated to the magician-animators Ed Ackerman, Al Jarnow and Takashi Ito). In this programme there are collage exercises in which she uses a Stanley knife profusely to cut up different fragments of found footage so as to later reconstruct something completely different, as in the case of Tricks are for Kiddo and Black Rectangle. In Full of Fire, this keenness for plastic and construction turns its gaze to a burning building, a home that is dissolving and which it is not possible to return to, in an exhaustive reassembly in which both the images printed on the film and the material itself are the protagonists. Extraits d’une famille and Les chassis de Lourdes deal with the architectural space where the foundational events of any person’s life occur: the banal domestic interiors, kitchens and living rooms that are repeated ad nauseum in working-class homes around the world. The idea of where and how one lives lies behind these films that have something of a family exorcism about them and are closer to an essay in tone, while not losing the impulse to work on collage, manipulation by hand, and animation. Turin and Domus are two different approaches to the work of Carlo Mollino, an Italian architect, designer, photographer and writer, lover of aerodynamics, skiing and racing cars, and an exciting character from the 50s whose vital idealism can be condensed into a famous quote: “Everything is permissible as long as it is fantastic.” In her years as an Architecture student, Vermette found the mould for her work in Mollino’s ideas. Turin, populated by triangular shapes (a minimalist representation of a house, or an alpine mountain), is in Mollino’s words an abstract portrait of the character created by cutting, gluing and scratching celluloid, and using the rayography technique (lest we forget, invented by Man Ray). Domus takes us through the history of Mollino based on his novel Vita di Oberon, where he tells the life of a young architect who has just died, a copy of himself in an autobiography of events that have not yet occurred, which also functions as a manifesto of his ideas. The film is both an architectural projection and a multifaceted animation, like a Russian doll, of Vermette’s own workspace, of her animation and cutting table, of the studio space that architects and filmmakers alike inhabit in the long and lonely hours spent building worlds made to measure. 

Vermette changes tack towards new cinematic terrain in Ste. Anne, a fiction feature film that occupies the second programme. The house, and also the vacant land where the protagonist plans a future home, are part of the film’s backbone: the house where she cannot stay, and the one that only exists in one’s imagination. In a way, the past and the future merge. The film, starring Vermette herself and several members of her family, is a charming, mysterious vision of rural Manitoba throughout the seasons, and the colours that they paint in the film. It is also a vision of the people who inhabit it, in an ancestral search ranging from community meetings and in solitude with the women of her town, to the search for what has already disappeared in the photo albums that Renée, the protagonist, flips through over and over again. The fragmentary nature of Ste. Anne is at its heart and at the foundation of its construction, being another materialisation of Vermette’s collage-driven spirit, with different formal codes. One can see Ste. Anne as one more way for Vermette to take root in her own territory, to attempt to explain what makes up that resilient magnetism of Manitoba. And one can also think of it as an intangible way of building a house on that wasteland of one’s ancestors, an intangible house that no fire or mishap can destroy.

Elena Duque