Straight outta Winnipeg

Winnipeg’s hip-hop scene, like any in Canada, is constantly overlooked and often regarded as a pale imitation of an American art form. In response, the Winnipeg Cinematheque is going to attempt to give it its due by screening three local filmmaker’s short films about local hip-hop artists. The program, entitled Hip Hop Saved the Day, will contain Technology Stole My Vinyl by Lena Franford, Brakada by Randell Mauricio and Life from 95 (the making of “Live from 95”) by Jim Agapito and Ervin Chartrand. The trio of films covers a wide range of topics and subjects. Programmed together, they attempt to show the surprising breadth of hip-hop’s influence in our humble prairie town.

First-time Director Franford’s Technology Stole My Vinyl examines the rather unregarded impact digital music is having on local DJ’s. Indeed, once upon a time, a DJ’s record collection, with a wide array of obscure and hard to find records, was his pride and joy. But, with the advent of digital music file-sharing and new hardware, the DJ world has dramatically changed. Lena Franford originally began the film as a Creative Communications student at Red River College but found that ”the project became much more than that over the summer” and has continued to work it into its final form. “Throughout, I’ve really relished the experience of delving into and learning about the city’s music scene.” she said of the project.

Brakada follows Michael and Mitchell Francisco from the titular group as they deal with the trials and tribulations of trying to create music careers for themselves. Like Franford, Randell Mauricio’s film found it origins in the Creative Communications program at Red River. He became involved with Brakada through his cousin and was so inspired that the project, meant to be five minutes, became a half hour film that took seven months to make.

“Michael and Mitchell break the mold of rappers trying to find fame.” Mauricio said, “Their drive to succeed stems from a need to do justice to the effort and sacrifices their first generation Filipino mother made to raise them in Canada.”

The program’s concluding film, Life from 95, by Jim Agapito and Ervin Chartand, follows the filmmakers and kids from IRCOM (the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba) for a year as they create a hip-hop song, “Live from 95,” and create a video for it. The outreach program was facilitated through the Winnipeg Arts Council’s WITH ART program at 95 Ellen Street.

“When we created the project we wanted the kids to be able to express themselves as much, and as freely, as they could and hip-hop was the perfect medium.” Agapito said, adding that participants got an opportunity to gain “the confidence in what they believe in and run with it.”
Many of the kids featured in the film have seen some terrible things in their lives before coming to Canada, and after,living in urban areas where local gang influence is considerable. The documentary ultimately depicts both triumph and tragedy – while the project gives some kids the facility to change for the better, others, sadly, succumb to gang life.

In all, Hip Hop Saved the Day provides the opportunity to see three unique glimpses into our largely unrecognized hip-hop culture, but also get exposed to some emerging filmmaking talent.

Hip Hop Saved the Day: Three Winnipeg Portraits is scheduled to run from Sept. 18-20 at Cinematheque.