penelope buitenhuis - writer / director
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I have worked as a filmmaker in Canada and Europe since 1984. Influenced by directors like Fassbinder, Godard and Lars von Trier, I made shorts in Berlin and Paris developing my own aesthetic before returning to North America to become a commercial filmmaker.

I studied under experimental filmmakers David Rimmer and Al Razutis at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver in the early 1980's. I began working in super-8 and 16mm creating new narrative works that combined both experimental and dramatic elements. Super-8 was both cheap and aesthetically gritty and challenged the Hollywood glossy aesthetic. Concerning myself largely with themes of revolution, anarchy and alienation, my early films embraced the punk anger of the era. In 1984 I moved to Berlin after co-writing and co-directing two documentaries: Alternative Squatting and We Just Want To Live Here about the squatting movement in Berlin, London and Amsterdam. The leftist movement was at it's height in this period. Anti-nuclear, anti-fascist, anti-Reagan demonstrations and riots were frequent and I was in the midst of it.

I had been looking for my angry tribe and found them in Berlin. I also found a thriving super-8 community and rep theatres that projected super-8. In Germany super-8 was not a home-movie genre as it was in North America, but respected as art and a form of resistance. The leftist national newspaper Taz wrote an full-page article on my films for a screening at the infamous Eiszeit Kino.

Using the punk aesthetic of fast furious images, sexual blatancy, industrial music and alternative characters, I became known as a guerrilla filmmaker in the underground scene in Toronto, New York, San Francisco, Vancouver, London, Amsterdam and Berlin. By the late eighties I had produced fifteen short films including Disposable, They Shoot Pigs Don't They? Framed, A Dream of Naming and Indifference which received numerous festival awards in Europe and Canada. Screening in galleries, rep theatres, at parties and demonstrations, I gave workshops on shooting low-budget films in super-8, editing on video and mastering on 16mm. In 1989, a retrospective of my shorts entitled Guns, Girls and Guerrillas was held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It was also the year the Berlin Wall fell and everything changed. My short political rant Llaw (shot on super-8, blown to 16mm) about the hypocrisy of the propaganda surrounding the fall of the wall was a hit at the Berlin Film Festival and German TV (ZDF) approached me to make a low-budget feature. My underground days were over and my commerical career had begun.

My first feature Trouble, which I wrote and directed, about the post-wall music and political scene in Berlin, received Best Film honors at numerous festivals around the world and was broadcast to millions in Europe. Invited back to Canada to direct my second feature, the thriller Boulevard, with Lou Diamond Phillips, Lance Henriksen and Rae Dawn Chong, I learned the ways of bigger budget directing, aquiring an L.A and Canadian Agent. In 1994 I began directing television. The Gemini nominated CBC M.O.W.Giant Mine was my first. It was tough shooting 2000 feet underground in a gold mine but riveting to work on a true story with high stakes political content. I also directed the Leo nominated thriller Dangerous Attraction and for a fairly low-budget, had high production value. Killer Bees was shot in 14 days as a TV movie but ended up in Blockbusters after being well received on TV. It was a challenging film effects-wise and the tight shooting schedule forced us to be innovative .

In episodic television, I have directed such series as Train 48, Bliss, Paradise Falls, Hope Island, Madison, Wind at my Back, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, and Lonesome Dove,and the pilot for Cold Squad.

My documentary Tokyo Girls about western women who work as hostesses in Japan received two Leo Awards and two Geminis for best cinematography and editing. I am getting back to my roots in both writing and filmmaking after being seduced by the commercial film world and have numerous projects of my own in development. See Development for updates on my newest projects. My short film The Waiting Room was screened in 35mm at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2003 and gave me the itch to get back into producing my own works.

I believe that anyone can be a filmmaker, you just have to do it. Waiting for funding or support from the bureaucratic system can be disillusioning and often pointless. I did not apply for funding until I had already made ten shorts. Those in funding power could no longer deny that I was a filmmaker. Only by developing and producing ones own work does a filmmaker develop their own aesthetic and become a filmmaker. With Super-8, I was free and now with video, it's even cheaper. Make it, show it, be proud of it. And so what if you don't make a living at it, maybe you will later.

Penelope can be reached in Canada through her agent
Carl Liberman (Toronto)
Tel: 416-964-8522 fax: 416-964-8206

Copyright © 2011 Penelope Buitenhuis
Webmaster: Sparkjoy Studios