Architecture film festival adds stories to foundation


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LEGENDARY singer Frank Sinatra. Rumpled French comedy star Jacques Tati. And remote, rocky Fogo Island off Newfoundland's northern coast.

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This article was published 15/04/2015 (2794 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

LEGENDARY singer Frank Sinatra. Rumpled French comedy star Jacques Tati. And remote, rocky Fogo Island off Newfoundland’s northern coast.

What do they have in common?

Each have been touched by architecture in vastly different ways.

Those stories are told in the five-day Architecture + Design Film Festival, an event entering its fourth year celebrating the multi-faceted nature of architecture.

The film festival is the brainchild of Susan Algie of the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation, an organization with a mandate of educating the public about architecture.

In that task, Algie makes a point of seeing a lot of films. Lucky for her, documentaries on the subject of architecture are practically a genre unto themselves.

“I’m an inveterate researcher,” says Algie, who was recently announced as the recipient of the 2015 Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s Advocate for Architecture award.

“I just watch all year to see what films are coming up and I monitor other festivals and I really just try to keep track.”

The festival is sufficiently established that, this year, Algie is offering a couple of fictional feature films amid the docs, including the Oscar-winning 1958 Jacques Tati film Mon Oncle (Saturday at 9 p.m. at Cinematheque). As in Tati’s subsequent film Playtime, comedy is derived from the contrast between the bumbling Tati hero and the clean, crisp, sterile modern architectural surroundings in which he finds himself.

“It’s just such a wonderful film and it’s kind of out of circulation,” Algie says. “To me, the house in that film is as much a central character as everybody else in the film.”

The other non-doc film is La Sapienza (Friday at 9 p.m. at Cinematheque), the story of a French architect who reconnects with his wife on a visit to Italy to study the great 17th-century architect Francesco Borromini.

“Added to that is a short film called The Dolphin Skin City. They’re both pieces about architecture and love, so I put that together as a kind of date-night option,” Algie says.

The architecture of Palm Springs, Calif., is another theme on Thursday night’s program, which includes The Nature of Modernism: E. Stewart Williams (at Cinematheque at 7 p.m.), the story of the architect who, among other achievements, convinced Frank Sinatra that a modernist showcase in Palm Springs was preferable to the Georgian-style abode Ol’ Blue Eyes had in mind.

The film is followed at 9 p.m. by Quiet Elegance: The Architecture of Hugh M. Kaptur, a portrait of the Palm Springs-based master of mid-century modern design.

“That’s sort of the eye-candy part of the festival,” Algie says.

A more unlikely setting for modern architecture is found in Strange and Familiar: Architecture of Fogo Island (today at 7 p.m. at Cinematheque), which documents architect Todd Saunders and his surreal studios perched on the rocky shores of Fogo Island, about 120 kilometres north of Gander, N.L.

The filmmakers, Katherine Knight and Marcia Connolly, will be in attendance for the screening.

The full program of the Architecture + Design Film Festival can be found at

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Randall King

Randall King

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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