May 18–22, 2023

Unsettled Settings: Ryan Ermacora & Jessica Johnson

The foremost landscape filmmakers in the country.”

Kurt Walker, filmmaker

Scarred, forgotten, overgrown: the British Columbia locations spotlighted by Vancouver-based filmmakers Ryan Ermacora and Jessica Johnson are consistently unsettling. The duo’s experimental documentaries see BC’s remote landscapes as both irreparably scarred by industry and holding hope for enchantment and renewal. A commitment to analogue cinematography emphasizes the strange natural beauty of these rarely photographed places, and the imperfections of the image—grain, light leaks, dust, scratches—reinforce a sense of fragility and impermanence. In some ways, their work is similar to that of other filmmakers concerned with both the material processes of cinema and the ethics of industrial labour, including Wang Bing, Kevin Jerome Everson, and Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel (who are also featured at The Cinematheque in May with their new film De Humani Corporis Fabrica). However, Ermacora and Johnson also exhibit an utterly unique artistic vision grounded in BC’s unceded territories and industrial ruins. Watch for recurring motifs of frames-within-frames and offscreen sound, as well as nods to the conventions of early cinema through static long takes, sparse cuts, and square-ish framing.

Ermacora and Johnson are both mainstays in Vancouver’s film community, having screened their films at multiple editions of the Vancouver International Film Festival and the DOXA Documentary Film Festival since 2015. (You may even occasionally glimpse Ermacora working up in the projection booths at The Cinematheque and VIFF Centre.) While their films are almost exclusively set in BC (the exception being Johnson’s Scottish-set Hazel Isle), Johnson and Ermacora have been celebrated nationally with a 2019 retrospective at the AGO in Ontario and internationally with screenings in Germany, South Korea, Mexico, France, and beyond. The Cinematheque is delighted to bring this retrospective, which showcases all of Ermacora and Johnson’s solo and collaborative documentary shorts, as well as their 2022 feature Anyox, home.

Ermacora and Johnson will be in attendance for our opening night program, co-presented with the Polygon Gallery, which will include a Q&A discussion following Anyox, as well as a screening of Sharon Lockhart’s , a film chosen by the duo to pair with their work. On May 20, the filmmakers will return for an Anyox Q&A moderated by Vancouver-based writer-director Antoine Bourges.

In its humility, reserve, and spaciousness, Ermacora and Johnson’s work … is a curious and welcome entry in the field of political commentary, particularly among a generation of settlers trying to reckon with the unnerving lineages of the places they call home.”

Jaclyn Bruneau, Cinema Scope

List of Programmed Films

Date Film Title Director(s) Year Country
2023-May Anyox + NŌ
2023-May Anyox Ryan Ermacora . . . 2022 Canada
2023-May Ermacora & Johnson Shorts