Short Doc ‘1919’ Gives New Meaning to ‘Graphic Violence’

Screenshot from the production

By Pat Mullen

Doc fans who mostly know the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 through the hallucinatory reveries of My Winnipeg might want to watch this short doc. Where Guy Maddin’s docu-fantasia delightfully plays fast and loose with Canadian history, Rami Katz’s short film for the CBC spotlights another artist who takes an unconventional approach to the past. This short film about artist David Lester gives new meaning to the idea of “graphic violence.” (Read more about Guy Maddin’s approach to history in his essay on My Winnipeg.)

The film features Lester in conversation about his graphic novel 1919: A Graphic History of the Winnipeg General Strike. The book takes an impressionistic approach to the event that happened a century ago. The strike, the largest ever in Canadian history, left over 30,000 jobless. Lester’s book conveys the violence that erupted from the strike through carefully sketched interpretations that imply the bloody events of the situation, rather than sensationalise them as entertainment often does. The images reject the necessity of violence in a nation’s history without erasing such events from the past. In contrast, the frames depicting peaceful protest are more clear and lucid to illustrate the power of non-violent calls to action. As Lester speaks about his work and displays his work to the camera, one can only imagine how history will record the events of 2020, of which the Winnipeg General Strike has obvious parallels.

Watch 1919 below: