ReFrame: Spotlights on Rebecca Baird & Marnie Parrell

Friday, January 26, 9:00pm

Rebecca Baird and Marnie Parrell produced films in the 1980s and 1990s which crossed cultural barriers. The 1980s marked the final decade of the Cold War culminating with the Berlin Wall literally opening up on the 9th of November 1989. Its demolition demarcated the total collapse of Soviet communism–the demise of the Eastern Bloc. The short films of these contemporary female Indigenous artists were made within this particular historical, social and political context; they move from diaristic works towards cinema for a more generalized public reflected in their oeuvres.


Reflecting her identity as a status Cree Metis artist, Baird’s artistic practice explores themes of Indigenous history, identity and culture. Early artworks have been included in benchmark exhibitions presented at galleries and museums nationally and internationally including From Sea To Shining Sea, 1987, The Power Plant and Indigena, 1992, Former Museum of Civilization. She received her Masters of Fine Art from OCAD University in 2013. Her iconographical content is not only visually, but also personally intrinsic to her work; Baird’s films tend to be autobiographical, but it is her personal history as transmuted by the artist.


The films, though intense, have a dream-like quality to them that reflects Baird’s desires to transform private concerns into a more generalized public display. She is sharing the ways of knowing and being in the world, specifically the cultural, social, and political structures made between Indigenous people and newcomers. The interconnection and respect between the plant world, the animal world and human world is inherent in the tone of her films. Her visual imagination in these particular films seems particularly attuned to the topography of the American South-West and the symbolism and metaphors as expressed in the Indigenous art of her ancestors.


Born in Preeceville, Saskatchewan, Marnie Parrell is a Métis filmmaker, writer, and artist. The first screening of her work was in 1991. Since then her films and videos have been screened both nationally and internationally, from Melbourne, Australia to Dawson City, Yukon, and she has received numerous grants and festival awards. Parrell’s films are hybrids – experimental, shorts, narratives, and documentaries. Her early work was completed with small-gauge and obsolete technologies such as regular and super 8 film and the Fisher Price Pixelvision. A firm believer in DIY (Do-It-Yourself) ethics, Parrell enjoys the artistic and practical challenges of working with outdated or unintended technology.


Parrell completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Toronto (double major in Cinema Studies and Semiotics, minor in Women’s Studies) and an MFA at York University in film production where she wrote, directed, and edited The Future. It’s so last week, a half-hour femsploitaction, sci-fi adventure. She attempts to reframe objects, scenes, and stories in such a way as to make the familiar, or some aspect of it, seem new or strange thus creating the potential for reinterpretation.


REFRAME spotlights the unique voices of Rebecca Baird and Marnie Parrell working during a specific time period such as during the height of the Cold War and later with its demise. Over the succeeding decades, these artists have continued their artistic practices in numerous disciplines; but REFRAME presents a survey of their engaging small-gauge works ranging from formalist to narrative as contemporary female Indigenous artists in the early part of their artistic practices. Many of these works haven’t been screened in decades so please join us for this unique viewing opportunity!



Sponsored by the Images Festival

Marnie Parrell
1989 / regular 8mm / sound / 4 min.
Shot over a Thanksgiving weekend this film reflects the aimless happy warmth of a late fall road trip. The layering of images through multiple exposure reinforces a where-are-we-now feeling further evidence in the soundtrack as it dials through pausing but never stopping for long.

Marnie Parrell
e clips
1990 / regular 8mm / sound / 4 min.
Using masks and multiple exposures this film examines life as revealed by tiny windows of light. A lunar eclipse was caught at the end of filming this piece and included as it is also created through shadows and light, in keeping with the theme of the piece.

Rebecca Baird
1981 / super 8 / sound / 3 min.
Abstract cinema keyed by montage and material symbolism. Shots of US bombers are intercut with sequences of a body being wrapped and bound within clear plastic sheeting. The poetic monologue is gradually overwhelmed by a military man intoning a countdown. Is White-Out about sexual politics or about the Ultimate-Armageddon?

Marnie Parrell
Hitler and Me
1990 / regular 8mm / sound / 4 min.
This film is about anticipatory desire. It is a bit of a filmic joke as Hitler never appears but remains just off screen, just out of view. What the viewer does see is a stand-in for innocuous willing followers.

Rebecca Baird
1981 / super 8 / sound / 13 min.
Romanticism for the ’80s, this is an exploration of a relationship as it unfolds (or has unfolded). Combustion is created by merging five separate anecdotes into a single piece. Our couple travel to the American South-West, where they explore their relationship with each other using the interview format. She sees no one else but him. He, however, speaks in a manner that suggests she’s not the only one in his life. “I can’t help myself” he explains. Girls plant crimson kisses on his body. One girl sings, “I hate you”. Two others chorus, “Yea Yea” to him—including his film-maker/lover.

Marnie Parrell
1992 / regular 8mm / sound / 9 min. / Starring Nadia Sistonen and Catharine Kaiser.
The multiple exposures are meant to draw and confuse the eye. The characters in this film inadvertently interact with themselves as the various layers vibrate against each other creating an effect that is more dreamlike than disturbing.

Marnie Parrell
She Talks to Angels
1991 / regular 8mm / sound / 9 min. / Starring Nadia Sistonen and Linda Feesey.
Sadomasochism, cannibalism, and murder—a love story gone wrong. When one partner is allowed total control the other is ultimately consumed and lost, literally and figuratively. The innocent brilliance of nature juxtaposed with sorry acts of human cruelty. Ain’t love grand?

Rebecca Baird
1981 / super 8 / sound / 7 min. / Starring Andrew J Paterson.
Lynda is an aspiring country and western chanteuse who dusts her flat and stands by her man. But when she wants a little loving, George would rather do their income tax. Her dusting creates desires in George for (a) more bathing, (b) David Bowie and (c) Lynda’s brother?

Marnie Parrell
1988 / regular 8mm / silent / 4 min.
Using a cardboard mat, Marnie divided the lens in half creating a split screen effect. Shot at Lake Ontario, it means to convey the carefree nature of a day lounging lakeside, triggering in the viewer visceral memories of a day at the beach.

Rebecca Baird
Flying Hawk and the Buffalo Nation
2016 / super 8 / sound / 3 min.
While seeing images of buffalo raised in captivity, we hear from Kenny King, an Ojibway man from Mississauga New Credit First Nation telling us a little about himself, his story raising buffalo and a crop circle that mysteriously appeared in his buffalo compound.