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Posted: Sep 14, 2010 MATTHEW RANKIN'S 'NEGATIVIPEG' HITS TIFF
2010 Toronto International Film Festival
A PIECE OF WINNIPEG HISTORY IS EXPLORED IN RANKIN’S SHORT ‘NEGATIVIPEG’
Every so often an event happens that captures the imaginations of people everywhere and becomes an urban legend. Matthew Rankin’s latest film, Negativipeg, uncovers the true story of a classic Winnipeg tale. In this story, the hero is Burton Cummings, the weapon is a beer bottle and the villain is Winnipeg.
Negativipeg tells the story of Winnipegger Rory Lepine, who one night attacked legendary lead singer of The Guess Who, Burton Cummings, with a beer bottle at a Winnipeg 7-Eleven.
While the mere mention of Burton Cummings grabs people’s attention, Rankin says this really is a film about Rory Lepine. He adds, “I want people to discover him, and to know him in his complexity. He's no angel and make no mistake, you would not want to get into a fight with him. But Rory is also a good guy. He too, like Burton, is an image of Winnipeg, and he is complex. There is something tragic about Lepine because he is forever chained to this one incident for the rest of his life.”
The title Negativipeg comes from Burton Cummings himself. After the incident, Burton began to speak negatively about his hometown and engaged in a war of words with Winnipeg Free Press columnist Gordon Sinclair Jr. over Winnipeg. It was in this context that Burton condemned Winnipeg as a city beyond redemption and dubbed thee “Negativipeg”.
Rankin believes that Burton’s negative reaction to the 7-Eleven incident actually proves how much of a Winnipegger he really is. He adds, “I know I would have responded in exactly the same way. I wouldn't have blamed Rory Lepine; I would have blamed Winnipeg. Winnipeg can do this to you! We all love it, but there are moments --- and we all have those moments --- when we look upon Winnipeg and all we can see is a living monument to all of our feelings of disappointment and frustration. But of course, we always come around again and so did Burton!”
The film naturally materialized from an obsession Rankin and producer on the film, Walter Forsberg, had with Burton Cummings. One day, the two began filming Burton-related stuff, with no real purpose. In 2006, filming of the “We Are Winnipeg” tour took place, where over a span of two days Burton visited almost every Salisbury House in Winnipeg. Rankin says that this was when the idea for the Burton Cycle trilogy really formed.
“As we filmed, people kept telling us about this mythic beer bottle attack between Burton and some nameless belligerent in a 7-Eleven back in the 80s. It came up so frequently --- and in such radically different forms --- that it seemed we had found our subject. Burton really is an image of ourselves and similarly, the beer bottle is the iconic Winnipeg weapon - so I think that's why people keep telling, retelling and re-imagining this 7-Eleven myth. I love myths that seem to define Winnipeg - they're always very strange!”
There are two other short films in the Burton Cycle. Fahrenheit 7-Eleven is the first film, which focuses on the myth of the famed 7-Eleven incident, with interviews and re-enactments of the incident and is directed by Walter Forsberg. The second film, Discount Everything, is ‘a stark cinema-direct study’ of the very last “75 cent Tuesdays at Salisbury House” and has little to do with Burton.
Rankin is a TIFF veteran, who has had two other short films in the festival, 2006’s Où est Maurice?, co-directed with Alek Rzeszowski and 2008’s Cattle Call, co-directed with Mike Maryniuk.
TIFF SCREENING TIMES
SHORT CUTS CANADA: PROGRAMME 6
Wednesday, September 15 at 9:00pm – TIFF BELL LIGHTBOX 2
Friday, September 17 at 2:45pm – JACKMAN HALL – AGO
For those of you unable to attend TIFF, Negativipeg will be screening at Gimme Some Truth - The Winnipeg Documentary Project on Thursday, October 21, 2010, as part of the Cinematography in Documentary Series.
Click here to view our blog post on the man behind the camera, Matthew Rankin!
Written by: Gemma Manangan, OSM Communications Coordinator