The Long and the Tall of It.
by Gerald Saul.
Profile of filmmaker Angelos Hatzitolios

We have all read the oft touted tales of the Filmpool’s magical beginnings, of how a group of enthusiasts, trained by Jean Oser, brought together by “Who Has Seen The Wind”, and proactively supported by the Canada Council, created a utopic co-op in 1977. The story doesn’t end there. The 1980s would see great change for the Filmpool. Even by the time I joined the co-op in 1984, it was being reshaped by its second generation of Filmmakers. Amongst those filmmakers there is one whom I would like to discuss, someone who has perhaps had a greater impact on me and my role at the Filmpool than any other: Angelos Hatzitolios.
At the age of 16, Angelos Hatzitolios (Ange), who was already an avid super-8 buff, along with a number of other teenage filmmaker wannabes including Marc LaFoy and Don Cornelius, put their $50 on the table for a filmmaking course conducted by the Filmpool as a university extension. They learned from some of our original members such as Don List and Brock Stevens, how to make films in a workshop environment. The project created in their course, Gladiator, has been lost but the process was profound fore those teens.

In the months that followed, the realization struck a number of these workshop participants that they could continue have access to film equipment and be part of the cooperative environment of the Filmpool by simply joining! While this seems obvious today, in those early days the Filmpool was young and still finding its footing. Consequently, the introduction of young strangers into the tight knit group of old timers (some of them might have been nearly 30 years old!!!) was not effortless. The Filmpool had to learn to accept its own inevitable growth. This uncertainty led to the introduction of new rules, especially relating to access and equipment use.

In those days funding for film was even harder to come by than it is today and so many first films from the Filmpool members were funded as workshop process films. Two films of note which resulted from this system were Fire Hall Number 2 by Elmer Nakamira and Hunting Excursion, one of the great Filmpool films of the early 80s, by Angelos Hatzitolios.
For the remainder of the 80's, Ange would continue to create tightly controlled comic dramas through the Filmpool as well as through the University Film and Video program (Grad 86) and Cable Regina, drinking in all technical and aesthetic aspects of film and video production.

Ange crafted his films with unwavering attention to every detail of every frame, from shooting to editing. He was a type of loner, but only when he needed to be completely creative. When not filmmaking, he could bend your ear until the sun was rising, over a bottle or dead sober. His commitment to the Filmpool was also unquestionable. He proved to the old guard that he could craft a film, make informed yet intuitive decisions on committees, and debate the fine points of any film theory of the day as well as any of them. He proved that the new generation of filmmakers, born of the film school would soon fill the Filmpool and call it home
In hindsight, I have noticed an interesting thematic difference between Angelos’s student works versus his Filmpool based films, created concurrently in the early to mid 80s. Student projects such as Fast Forward and Overdue contain characters who have relationships and strive to protect people close to them. Fast Forward is a satirical buddy picture and Overdue involves the protagonist’s boyfriend being held hostage. Furthermore, the primary conflict is people against people. However, Ange’s works made independently through the Filmpool all involve man in conflict with his environment. Hunting Excursion is the most obvious example of this. In it, we see a man rise from his bed in the middle of the night, gather his hunting gear and, in preparation for the sun to rise, he goes out to shoot down the moon. Dangerous Shadows pits a man against an unseen menace in the darkness, and in Cloud and Eclipse, we find Ange’s protagonist alone in the desert, an unseen foe shooting at him, and finally facing a pseudo Bergamanesque metaphor personified whom he must engage in a game of chess.

This dichotomy suggests that the university offered, or perhaps enforced, a different type of social interaction on Ange, which in turn manifested itself in his work. If so, this might further explain the self reflexive and completely anti-social final Saskatchewan film of Angelos’s. As well, if we accept that Ange’s creative directions are closely tied to his social surroundings, it may help to reconcile the changes which took place once he left Saskatchewan.

At the end of the decade, Ange would create a filmic gem which, due to its completion after leaving the province, went unknown in Saskatchewan for a number of years. Over/Under Cranked is an unusual film for Ange. Dispensing with drama, it features four black and white shots, static yet perplexing, shot through a mirror so that we watch the filmmaker (Ange) in the process of creation. However, it is not that simple. The image speeds and slows, even though the filmmaker appears to never waver from his clock-like work. Begun as a technical curiosity, Over/Under Cranked evolved into a series of magnificently realized shots which mesmerise and baffle most audiences who have been fortunate enough to encounter them. To solve the mystery of the image requires a more than fleeting familiarity with the 16mm motion picture camera.

Over/Under Cranked was, in a sense, a step towards revealing this essential truth behind Ange’s work. The on-screen image of Ange, crouched in painfully uncomfortable positions, controlling the camera’s every frame with a turn of his hand, (or perhaps enslaved by the very machine of which he believes he the master) is, to me, the real Ange.

Although one might not easily reconcile Over/Under Cranked as part of Ange’s body of work, from knowing him for many years, the placement of it as the natural culmination of his films made at the Filmpool is abundantly clear. Ange is a formalist at heart, and in that I mean that he loves the process of filmmaking and is obsessed with “the apparatus”. His attention to framing, to depth, to shadow, to form, to colour, and to timing are all equally attacked with a vigorous lust for precision in every work he does.

This is true even of his most straight forward dramas. Case in point is a portion of Fast Forward, On most levels Fast Forward is a traditionally structured satire of a television style buddy cop picture. One scene shows the two cop characters in debate about chasing their suspect while in the distance, framed perfectly behind them, the suspect struggles with his malfunctioning car. Ange uses long takes such as this one to cleverly play with time and depth. It comments on the medium while simultaneously advancing the storyline.

On the other hand, Ange has cloaked his formalist desires within comic dramas for the simple reason that, for all his love of making technically based films, he does not want to watch them. About Over/Under Cranked, Ange once told me that, although many people tried to convince him that it could be shaped into a much longer film, he limited its length because “no one should have to watch a film like this for more than six minutes!”

Ange’s film career changed with his move away from Saskatchewan to Toronto where economics forced him to forgo short filmmaking in favour of taking jobs as a cameraman or editor. His first feature length screenplay, a clever comedy called Summer Story, written during his first two years in, what he called “an indifferent big city”, lies unproduced to this day.
Now, with a wife, one child, and a second on the way (child, not wife) and a job at CBC, Ange has finally managed to find the environment he’d been missing since leaving Saskatchewan, the environment with which to begin again to practice his favourite craft. Finding a few minutes here and there, Ange has been knitting together clips of video and manipulating them with his computer and sending them over the internet for the amusement and/or bewilderment of small audiences. Isn’t that what the genre of formalist filmmaking is all about?

When asked if he had a message for the new generation of Filmpool members, Ange wryly explained “When I was young, we had to use a moviola and we had to control it with our feet.” I miss his sarcastic wit and trademark cynicism.

Angelos Hatzitolios’s Saskatchewan Filmography
Hand of Evil, 22 minutes, 1982
Hunting Excursion, 3.5 minutes, 1983
Overdue, 10 minutes, 1984
Fast Forward, 10 minutes, 1986
Dangerous Shadows, 2.5 minutes, 1986
Evolution, 10 minutes, 1986 (co-director)
Heartline, 16 minutes, 1986 (cinematographer)
Cloud and Eclipse, 8 minutes, 1988
Over/Under Cranked, 6 min, 1990

Gerald Saul 2005