Guy Maddin's Seances – Member Preview Night!

Thu Oct 23: 6.30–9.30pm
Free Member Preview + Reception

Fri Oct 25 – Sun Nov 3
General Admission begins; 30-minute sessions; available showtimes vary per day

Free for members of NWFF and On the Boards!

When you are ushered into the cinema for a Seance, watch closely, for what you are watching will never be seen again. Viewers are admitted in groups of no more than 15, and the experience will be 10 to 20 minutes long. Seances are powered by an indefatigable film-generating-and-destroying machine that deliberately creates films only to render them inaccessible after a single viewing.

Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, Galen Johnson & the National Film Board of Canada

Visiting Artist

** Guy Maddin will be in attendance at all of the feature-length, non-Seance screenings in the Maddin Mini-Retrospective, Oct. 26 & 27! **


** Copresented with On the Boards! **

Never before seen films, never to be seen again.

Seances presents a new way of experiencing film narrative, framed through the lens of loss. In a technical feat of data-driven cinematic storytelling, films are dynamically assembled in never-to-be-repeated configurations. Each exists only in the moment, with no pausing, scrubbing or sharing permitted, offering the audience just one chance to see this film before it disappears.

The project was born from the mind of one of the world’s foremost outré directors, Guy Maddin, who has long been haunted by the idea that 80% of films from the silent era have been lost. Driven by the desire to reincarnate this vanished history, an abundance of these films have been reimagined by Maddin and brothers Evan and Galen Johnson, with the express goal of combining and recombining them to create infinite narrative permutations.

In this trio’s inimitable ethos and aesthetic – which takes the language and spirit of early sound cinema and runs it through a filter of their invention, bound up in history, melodrama and bromance-infused neuroses – Seances has been co-created by the NFB as an installation- and web-based film experience. In both iterations, the audience has an opportunity to influence the film they are about to see, but it will be the only instance of that particular film that will ever exist. There is only that moment to watch.


Each time the user conjures up a new film for its one-time-only viewing, he or she participates directly in its eternal loss. This examination of loss within a form that contributes to loss is a paradox further magnified by today’s Internet-driven mindset, in which everything is only and forever a click away. Within this absurd contradiction exists a truth: That which is fleeting and fragile becomes more precious and valuable, just like the many lost works from the first half-century of film.


The Seances experience is powered by the latest in cloud computing and by an indefatigable film-generating-and-destroying machine that deliberately creates films only to destroy them after their one and only viewing.

This machine was built using a heavily customized version of Nickel Media’s cloud-based video/audio compositing and compilation software, Imposium. The proprietary software runs on Amazon AWS Cloud formation, feeding audience demand through 500 or more virtual machines capable of rendering any number of videos per hour – a first in generative film. Through the algorithmic film direction of Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, Galen Johnson and the NFB, these virtual machines dynamically sequence and juxtapose a range of film fragments, creating the potential for hundreds of thousands of unique narratives. Each resulting video becomes a nested “Russian Doll” film within a film within a film – each with its own unique title and story.

Whenever a film is conjured through the Seances installation, it plays without option of pausing. And once it’s over it becomes permanently erased from the system, joining the graveyard of lost films. That particular title can never be seen again.

Seances not only advances the notion of data-driven storytelling, but it pushes the very limits of cinematic narrative cohesion, again and again and again. Cinema manqué infinité!

Curator's Statement:

** Curated by Film Historian Dr. Jeffrey Crouse for Seattle’s unique pairing of Guy Maddin’s acclaimed Seances video art installation together with a mini-retrospective of the Canadian auteur’s career **

I’m a primitive, and L’Age d’Or and Eraserhead will always be my touchstones,” Guy Maddin told The Guardian‘s Jonathan Romney in 2015, paying homage to cinema’s greatest surrealists – Buñuel and Lynch – whilst declaring his own commitment, and contribution, to exploring hallucinatory dream worlds through visual media. The youngest person to earn the Telluride Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Film, Maddin is that rare film artist nowadays: a genuinely independent, wildly imaginative director in an era where corporatist franchise cinema dominates. By consistently choosing to opt for narratives that showcase his outrageous wit, obsessive knowledge of film style and history (in this he actually outshines fellow fanboys Scorsese and Tarantino), and long before “polysexuality” became a cultural buzzword, Maddin has, like Jean Vigo, Jack Smith, and the Kuchar brothers, consistently presented a film aesthetic built around daringly quirky tales of erotic attraction, fixation, and the vagaries of lust. Insofar as underground film exists today, he occupies his own ceremonial kiva.

Besides being a filmmaker, Maddin’s creative output also includes several books and, in conjunction with Evan and Galen Johnson as well as The National Film Board of Canada, has created his unique Seances (Spiritismes) video installation. As committed to the dreamscape of silent cinema as a Rudolf Arnheim or Kevin Brownlow, Seances seeks to resurrect the spirits of films lost to history, largely, although not exclusively, those made before the coming of sound. It does so using an algorithm that mixes more than thirty films shot for the project at Paris’s Georges Pompidou Centre and Montreal’s Phi Centre to form a one-of-a-kind movie that, once seen, disappears forever. Toward this end, Maddin cast actors Geraldine Chaplin, Udo Kier, Charlotte Rampling, Matthieu Amalric, Maria de Medeiros, Kim Morgan and others for these newly generated short films, each with a running time lasting just over what used to be a reel of film (around 12 minutes). Going further than even Vertov, Maddin, ever the postmodernist, has, in the words of Vice News, created an “interactive film project [that] explores the idea of ephemeral filmmaking with a machine as the director.

Seances, which has been successfully exhibited not only in Paris and Montreal, has also played at NYC’s Tribeca Film Festival and in St. Petersburg, now comes to the Rainy City – but with a difference. Here it arrives together with a small retrospective of his motion pictures, including the arch-Freudian “family romance” melodrama Careful (1992), Archangel (1990), and his Criterion Collection-worthy My Winnipeg (2008). As an added Halloween treat, Maddin himself will be on hand for a Q&A session after each of the three films.

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1515 12th Ave,

Seattle, WA 98122

206 329 2629

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