~ Poet: Alfred Vander ~

Letter to Fred by Mike Hoolboom & Alfred Vander

At one level, Letter to Fred is a film about the creative obsession of film-making. At another it’s about life and death beyond that frame. It’s the fifth film I’ve shared here at Moving Poems by Canadian experimental film-maker, Mike Hoolboom, so highly esteemed in the field since the 1980s.

At the film’s heart is a letter from Mike’s long-time friend, Alfred Vander aka Fred Pelon, a former film-maker. The simple words of the letter are given on screen simply as subtitles, while the sublime images, sounds and filmic rhythms invite a subtle poetic trance, a mindset of clarity in which the authenticity of what is said can better be felt and heard.

The film itself seems like Mike’s ‘letter to Fred’, as if in answer to the words received. The film-maker’s synopsis:

A letter from my friend Alfred Vander. Though when we met he was Fred Pelon, anarchist super 8 filmmaker, a prolific machine of thoughts and pictures, growing fungi on film, and on the archaic behaviours of the state. But it turned out that film was only the next stage in a life dedicated to reinvention. In this brief post, he describes his new normal, no longer living in a boat but a monastery, working as a caregiver, a gardener, a bridge keeper. As the pandemic waxes on, and my relationships to fringe movie practices and places that used to be central feel increasingly abstract, as if part of some faraway dream, these spare lines offer new hope, and the ongoing consolation of friendship.

The drawn-out opening shot startles immediately to the edge of the seat, the knifes-edge presence of death a stark reference point for what follows. The film is highly personal to the two friends and yet covers far wider ground.