Moose Jaw: There’s a Future in Our Past

( 50 minutes, 16mm, 1992 )

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A wryly humorous excavation of history and personal memory, Moose Jaw is a reflexive view of the filmmaker’s childhood town in the Canadian west, as a mythic symbol of nation-building and the ‘manifest destiny’ of North America. With its revitalization motto, ‘There’s a Future in Our past,” this post-colonial crash site ingests the filmmaker in its museumizing process as a once thriving rail head on the margins of (British) Empire.

“Appropriate to a context of Canadian de-confederation, Moose Jaw is at once a statement of the filmmaker’s own maturation; a regionalist dirge on the fatality of economic dependency; an excavation of our ever-vanishing collective past; and the ironic deconstruction of all the above.” Michael Dorland, Art Gallery of Ontario

“Part love letter, part swan song, Rick Hancox’s diary film is a quintessential Canadian road movie… Hancox’s return to his childhood town creates one of the most inspired pieces of Canadian filmmaking in recent memory. Impressively archival… shines with visual wit in its right-now perspectives of the past.” (Helen Lee, Oh! Canada Project, Art Gallery of Ontario, Cinematheque Ontario, 1996)

Moose Jaw was a frontier boom-town flourishing on the Canadian Pacific rail line forging Canada as a “Dominion” in the late 1800s. But as rail gave way to the jet age, Moose Jaw began to decline. Now, museums dot the landscape (along with a giant moose), and schemes to restore yester-year boast the motto “ There’s a future in our past”-ironically adopted by Hancox himself in this one-hour, experimental documentary filmed over the course of a decade. A poetic, multi-levelled excavation of personal memory, social and political history, and the pre-historic, Moose Jaw is also a reflective portrait of the filmmaker’s hometown as a faded symbol of Empire, and “storm centre” on the frontier of a museumized future.

“Rick Hancox’s Moose Jaw is a poetic prophetic analysis into a personal and deeply existential journey...a meeting point of autobiography and history... Here the museum has finally come inside.” Arthur Kroker, “The Possessed Individual,” New World Perspectives

An epic work-in-progress since 1978, Moose Jaw is a multi-levelled excavation of ever-vanishing collective past and an ironic deconstruction of the present state of the Canadian federation. (Toronto International Festival, 1992)

“Hancox grew up in Moose Jaw, a prairie town in Saskatchewan. As a child his memories of the city are romantic-a cavernous train station, thundering steam engines, dazzling air shows and wild west rodeos. As its name suggest, Moose Jaw as, and is, no ordinary town. Once an exciting frontier boom town, chief ref-light district of the Prairies, hide-out for Chicago gangsters, etc. Moose Jaw has degenerated into little more than a ghost town. Hancox left at the beginning of the sixties when the city was beginning to decline. The film concerns the fate of this town. (Cathy Jonasson, “Recent Canadian Experimental Films,” Catalogue published by Canada House, 1990) “Replete with every museum imaginable, but particularly the Western Development Museum of Transportation, a pristine shrine to the technology on which Moose Jaw was founded, became independent, and then floundered when the CPR pulled up stakes, Moose Jaw has become a fascinating study in the downside of technological nationalism. If one were to view postmodern culture as the detritus of an advanced capitalist economy, then Moose Jaw would be the postmodern site par excellence.” (Rick Hancox)

“…there is an ironic reversal of viewpoint when the film turns on its maker, symbolically showing him filming inside the actual museum of the city’s history where he realizes he has become inextricably intertwined with the past he thought he had stepped outside of.” (Jeff Round, Arts Atlantic)

“… one of the most eagerly awaited and critically discussed Canadian independent films of recent years… Mixing experimental and documentary techniques, offering a variety of texts and points of view, Hancox’s Moose Jaw emerges as a poetic, reflective, surrealist-tinged portrait.” (Jim Sinclair, Pacific Cinematheque, Vancouver)

Awards: Director’s Citation, Black Maria; Special Citation for Excellence, Sydney Festival Australia; Director’s Citation, Toronto International Festival.

Available from:

Canadian Filmmakers' Distribution Centre
37 Hanna Ave. #220
Toronto, Ontario Canada M6K 1W8
telephone: 416-588-0725, e-mail:

Canyon Cinema
145 Ninth Street, Suite 260, San Francisco, CA 94103
phone/fax: 415-626-2255 email:

(printable version of description)

Reviews, Articles, Text & Notes:

HANCOX'S MOOSE JAW/MOOSE JAW'S HANCOX: An Analysis of Richard Hancox's
Moose Jaw -There's a Future in our Past
by Greg Linnell, 5 April 1994

You can never go home again, Nelson Bennett, Moose Jaw Times Herald, October 15, 1993

Going back home can shatter illusions, by Steve Tompkins, Moose Jaw Times Herald, October 15, 1993

Film Society will show short film about Moose Jaw Thursday, Moose Jaw Times Herald, October 9, 1993

Irony, Self and Landscape in the Films of Richard Hancox, by Michael Dorland
National Gallery talk April 14, 1993

Moose Jaw, du personnel a l’experimental, by Joanne Legault, April 14th, 1993
Les 5 Jours du cinema independent canadien

Moose Jaw Film"a bit weird" to the average viewer, by Susan Winkeelar, Moose Jaw Times Herald, March 26, 1993

From boomtown to bleak town by John Timmins, Concordia’s Thursday Report, February 4th, 1993

Arts Council Letter, April 1, 1992

Letter to Jan Rofekamp, March 5, 1992

Letter to Danielle Roy, Media Arts Assistant Canada Council Ottawa, Ontario
October 15, 1992; William C. Wees, Associate Professor, Dept. of English, McGill University

Rick Hancox's Moose Jaw: Betrayed by the Canadian Film Tradition
by Philip Preville, April 21, 1992

Ruin Nation: Richard Hancox’s Moose Jaw or “Now it’s an air town” , by Lianne McLarty, May 1990

The Moose Jaw Postmodern by Arthur Kroker
Originally published in a catalogue: Richard Hancox (Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 1990)

Disaster still Haunts Moose Jaw by Ron Seymour, The Times Herald, April 8, 1989

Canada Council Film Application, December 1989

Beyond the Forgetful Snow: Richard Hancox's "poetics of space" in the Moose Jaw, by Reza Farokhfal ,COMMS. 652

Libidinal Technology: Lyotard in the New World by Arthur Kroker

Moose Jaw: There's a Future in Our Past by Chris Gehman, published in Canadian Film Encyclopedia

Moose Jaw: The Reflexive in Documentary by Danny Stefik, essay for Nonfiction film since 1956, instructor: Robert Craig, Concordia University

Personal Artist’s Statement by Rick Hancox about Moose Jaw (There’s a Future In Our Past)

Moose Jaw Pavcific Cinematheque Flyer

Misguided look at Moose Jaw, editorial, Moose Jaw Times Herald

Moose Jaw Stands Tall with Mac, by Robert Martin, Moose Jaw Times Herald

Les 5 Jours Du Cinema Independant Canadien, Sequences, No. 163

Negative Cutter Cue Sheets

Moose Jaw Timing Sheets

Moose Jaw Interviews:

CBC Interview with Kevin Newman
DATE: JUNE 16, 1993 TIME: 12:38 P.M.

CBC Radio “Prime Time” with Geoff Pevere

CBC Radio Interview with Michael Dorland about Moose Jaw
English transcript: April 9, 1993 “A L’Ecran” CBC FM 12 minutes
Translated from the French transcript by Emma Hancox

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