By JEFF BUTTLE
In Penelope Buitenhuis latest
film, They Shoot Pigs, Dont They, the revolutionary
group, Women Attack Pigs, seizes a New York radio station,
broadcasts its manifesto, then hijacks a plane to Berlin.
the end, one of the female protaganists asks: Is
revolution a vision sent to defeat me?
Canadians generally like to think of themselves as people with a bright
future in a prosperous country, so her often-bleak and uncompromising
films arent always well received here, Buitenhuis admits.
In Europe, on the other hand, audiences sometimes find it hard to reconcile
films set in decayed, urban centres with their image of North America
as a wide open and clean place, she says.
Simon Fraser University film department graduate Buitenhuis, 29, makes
short super-8 and 16-millimetre films she calls new narrative, from
her home bases of Vancouver and West Berlin.
The films are generally shown in art galleries, meeting rooms and night
clubs, to smallish audiences. Buitenhuis would like to reach a larger
audience, and is moving into the feature film business to accomplish
I dont like just talking to artists, she says. What
I do is quite entertaining. Its not difficult, experimental work.
SHE has some concerns
the hard-edged nature of her film esthetic wont
transfer easily to a mainstream setting, but Buitenhuis
says Canadians are learning to appreciate smaller films.
One hurdle will be the Canadian medias disregard for offbeat, local
talent -- especially someone working in small-format films, she says. When
I have a show in Berlin, its covered in the press and the show
is packed. Im better known in Berlin than I am here, she
says. Im considered a filmmaker there, not a home-movie maker.
Buitenhuis is spending the summer here to escape the physical oppressiveness of
Berlin, and is co-writing a small-budget feature film script set in Vancouvers
Chinatown due to begin shooting shortly. Its a comedy about language
that follows the story of the search for a burgled parrot named Liberace,
Buitenhuis is also editing a short black and white film she shot in the
East Berlin with Vancouver poet Judy Radul, based on her poem, A Dream
Buitenhuis was born and raised in Toronto and followed her father, English
professor and author Peter Buitenhuis, to Vancouver in 1978. At a University
of B.C. film history course, she was introduced to the work of filmmakers
such as Jean Luc Godard and R.W. Fassbinder.
I was totally amazed. I didnt know these film existed, she
recalls. I felt very sympathetic to what they were doing.
Buitenhuis enrolled in the SFU film department and made a half dozen cross
cultural films in the program while travelling between Vancouver,
Berlin, Paris, New York, Amsterdam, San Francisco, and elsewhere.
I was very lucky. I was at Simon Fraser when people like Al Razutis and
David Rimmer were there, Buitenhuis says. The first thing David Rimmer
said was forget everything you ever did and just throw the camera around.
After graduating in 1984, Buitenhuis set up Black And White Films in
a squatters studio in a building in West Berlin. She was the centre
of a controversy there when, in 1986, she entered her SFU graduate project
film, Disposable, into the European Short Film Festival.
Disposable -- a film she describes as a look at disposable culture
versus tradition-based, living culture -- won an $11,000 prize,
but then had to be withdrawn because it had not been filmed within the
past 12 months.
It ended up being very messy, Buitenhuis says. It was good
for me, because bad press is good press for me.
THE next year, another
film, Framed, won the audiences choice prize
at the Hamburg No-Budget Film Festival. Her most recent
film has toured Germany, Austria, and the eastern United
States and Toronto, and was featured as part of a series
on the Canadian avant-garde at the Pacific Cinematheque
earlier this year.
This fall, Buitenhuis is scheduled to shoot a rock video in Finland for
a Finnish band, and in October her work will be featured at the IN-Sight
womens film and video festival in Edmonton. In January a retrospective
of her work will be shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Buitenhuis is also producing rock videos for German television, and is
working on a feature film script for a German television station.