Guy Maddin's Seances

Thu Oct 23: 6.00–9.00pm
Free Member Preview + Reception

Fri Oct 25 – Sun Nov 3: (30-minute sessions; available showtimes vary per day)
Oct 25–27: 12.00–9.00pm
Oct 28–30: 12.00–6.00pm
Oct 31 – Nov 2: 12.00–5.00pm
Nov 3: 12.00–3.30pm & 6.30–9.00pm

Single Seance: $5 NWFF/OtB Member / $7 General Admission
Triple Seance: $10 NWFF/OtB Member / $15 General Admission
** Join or renew your membership during Seances to receive unlimited viewings! **

Purchasers of a Triple Seance pick up a voucher at the box office at their first Seance. The voucher grants them entry to a further two Seances.

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!

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Northwest Film Forum
1515 12th Ave,

Seattle, WA 98122

206 329 2629

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