Welcome to the Calgary Stampede, the self described "Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth". For the last hundred years city residents have dusted off their cowboy hats and headed to the fairgrounds to celebrate the myth of the Wild West. Today their cowboy hats are plastic, the bulls mechanical, and attendance is higher than ever.
Unfolding over the course of a day, Stampede turns its attention to visitors at the event. We follow them through the entrance line, onto rides, and standing for the national anthem. Crowds crunch popcorn, eat giant turkey legs, and horses are tenderly groomed - another day at the fair. The film focuses on faces and gestures as people wait absentmindedly, tuning out the noise. Inward looking with subtle humour, these portraits begin to reveal the quietness at the heart of the crowd, and as the sun goes down a sense of exhaustion rises.
The Calgary Stampede is an annual rodeo, exhibition and festival that takes place in Calgary, Alberta, on the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), the Tsuut’ina, the Îyâxe Nakoda Nations, and the Métis Nation (Region 3). The exhibition and fair was initiated in the late 1800’s by white settlers to the area, organized as a colonial project to entice farmers and ranchers from Eastern Canada to move West. The organizers encouraged the city's residents to dress in western clothes and decorate their businesses in the spirit of 'the frontier', which they continue to do today.
As a visual artist and experimental filmmaker I’ve spent a great deal of time focusing on movement as an instigator of narrative or meaning. How we move often reveals more about us than what we say. With this in mind, I’ve turned the camera on the crowds and visitors at The Calgary Stampede, to try to understand what an event like this means today.
Produced, Directed & Edited by Allison Hrabluik
Director of Photography & Sound Recording: Benny Zenga
Additional Camera: Jessie Short
Music: Phen Ray
Sound Mixing: Jeff Bray & Joshua Stevenson
DOXA Documentary Film Festival 2020, Vancouver
Antimatter 2020, Victoria BC
Visions du Réel Media Library 2020, Switzerland