July 6–7, 2023

A Summer Long Since Passed: Three Films by Kurt Walker

Vancouver-born filmmaker Kurt Walker first came to cinema by a path only possible in this second century of the medium. Experimenting within the spaces of massively multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft, he began making machinima (a portmanteau of machine and cinema): movies that take game worlds, with their polygonal architecture, props, and model actors, as ready-made film sets.

Video and film artists of a certain inclination have always gravitated toward low-cost, new tech tools: 8mm, 16mm, Pixelvision, consumer-level digital cameras. Using these formats, as Walker does—nearly all of them show up in his films—means being bound up in their counter-histories, both as image-capture devices and distribution methods, which has led his work to be categorized with non-fiction, melodrama, new media, and experimental works.

These labels may appear contradictory, which is often the case when an artist exists outside a commercially ascendent look or format. Yet the core of Walker’s work is straightforward. The three films screening as part of A Summer Long Since Passed,” Walker says, all pay tribute to the artistic community and resulting friendships Walker forged in Vancouver. These are films that hold the ephemeralities of IRL and virtual existence in a careful balance, out of a desire, as Blanchot wrote to Bataille on the subject of friendship and finality, “[to] let images come, to appeal to an absence that we will imagine to be our own.”

All of Walker’s films have a retrospective angle, an engagement with nostalgia that sees each film reconfigure records of the past as something that has a life beyond any single person. Most powerfully, text is used in a way that’s equally reminiscent of early cinema intertitles and private messages. Walker’s cinema latches onto these chains of memory, recognizing that these types of images and sounds—obsolete tech and distant voices—are often the first things to fade away when describing, for example, what it meant to be in Vancouver in the 2010s as gentrification pushed friends and artists further apart.

Walker’s films fit into an alternate Canadian cinema. Most recently, I Thought the World of You was programmed in TIFF’s avant-garde Wavelengths section. More broadly, Walker’s films bring to mind the In Memorium (Mark LaPore) series by American filmmaker Phil Solomon, which memorializes his friendship with LaPore by shooting within the environs of PS2-era Grand Theft Auto, or the chat logs in Iwai Shunji’s All About Lily Chou-Chou. In both of those digital works, there is an emotional and textural specificity to their uses of technology. 

Walker’s films likewise are acts of transformative re-creation informed by the time spent there, behind cameras and within games, knowing both the physical world and the digital one are marked by similar forces of dissolution, yet that the gaps opened up by these shifts allow a small and nimble cinema to chart its own course.

List of Programmed Films

Date Film Title Director(s) Year Country
2023-Jul s01e03 + I Thought the World of You + Hit 2 Pass