World Famous Gopher Hole Museum

World Famous Gopher Hole Museum

Chelsea McMullan & Douglas Nayler – Canada 2015 – 19 MIN (looped)

Friday, November 4 at 5-7 PM
Saturday, November 5 at 2-4 PM
Sunday, November 6 at 9-11 AM
Golden Bus – By Donation

In a dark room seventy pairs of beady eyes stare back at you from behind illuminated glass boxes. Each a pair of tiny gopher eyes populating the dioramas of the Torrington Gopher Hole Museum. The museum opened in 1996, a double wide trailer in rural Torrington, AB (pop. 200) presenting taxidermized gophers dressed up as members of the community arranged in elaborate dioramas of daily life. World Famous Gopher Hole Museum is a short documentary that turns its lens on the town, the museum, and the people who live in both worlds. Invoking the Pyramids of Egypt, the film questions the human desire for legacy in the face of mortality. This struggle is visually represented through the Gopher Hole Museum, as the gophers are destroyed, taxidermied, and recast into an idealized version of the country town of Torrington.


Director Chelsea McMullan

mcmullan_chelsea_directorAlthough Chelsea McMullan works primarily in non-fiction, she has a lively interest in the surreal. Her films are meditative and playfully stylized; McMullan describes them as having a “truthiness.” But that doesn’t mean she’s not invested in crafting authentic stories. “In some ways when you’re using a truthiness or façade, you can actually get closer to a central truth—when you’re acknowledging your own objectification and your own perspective to an audience,” she says.

McMullan’s experimental approach has resulted in recent acclaim. In December, she won the DOC Vanguard Award, presented to an emerging or mid-career artist who demonstrates ahead-of-their-time talent. McMullan’s two most recent films—which both premiered in 2015—exemplify her knack for offbeat visual storytelling anchored by fascinating and often poignant human portraits.

McMullan studied film at York University. From there, she interned with Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier at Mercury Films—which she says solidified her interest in documentary—and began making short works, including Plume (2006) and Dead Man (2009), a half-hour documentary produced through the NFB Calling Card Program. The film explores a British Columbia man’s peculiar dream to build a Hollywood-style Western theme park in an isolated patch of the Interior, located not far from an Aboriginal community. Having grown up in Vancouver before moving to Toronto for university, McMullan is curious about how mythologies surrounding the West linger in contemporary life.

World Famous Gopher Hole Museum, was co-directed with McMullan’s husband Douglas Naylor, and nominated for a 2016 Canadian Screen Award for Best Short Documentary.

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