Monday, June 08, 2009


B.C.'s David Hauka reflects on memory and death
By Randy Shore, Vancouver Sun June 8, 2009
Photo Credit Ward Perrin

In his film Certainty, B.C. Filmmaker David Hauka suggests we are capable of processing life experience through a different lens.
Photograph by: Ward Perrin, Vancouver SunLook back on your childhood and time edits out the bad stuff, B.C. filmmaker David Hauka says. I don't think he means it.

In his new film Certainty, time is more like deep water, simultaneously clear and murky. Brush away the surface reflection and you reveal something deep and fluid. Clear and murky, deep and fluid, Hauka's 45-minute art -house reel is less a movie than a strange hybrid of dynamic tension, symphony and personal narrative.

Like Marcel Proust's A Search for Lost Time, Certainty explores the theme of death -- in this case those of his grandfather, father and mother -- and proposes a theory of art that suggests we are all capable of processing our life experiences through a new lens.

Hauka returns again and again to images that reflect his earliest memories and the Cold War crucible in which he was raised: John F. Kennedy, atomic bomb-test films, the race for the moon and stark oscillating wave patterns.

"I could not have made this film 10 years ago," admitted Hauka, who trained at the Vancouver Film School and the Simon Fraser University Film Workshop. "I wasn't ready."

Ten years ago, Hauka was pursuing a career as a director, production manager and producer of films and television programs for major studios like Disney and MGM. He got a start in the business as an actor on The Beachcombers and Highlander but quickly moved behind the camera.

Like many promising young filmmakers, Hauka made a little splash with an early work: his 1986 film Solus won a prize at the Chicago Film Festival. Early success earned him the chance to make some fine films (A Wrinkle in Time, Impolite and Whale Music) and work with luminary actors (Jon Voight, Christopher Plummer and Ellen Burstyn).

Hauka lost his father, a navy veteran and technologist, and his mother, an air force veteran, within one year in the early 1990s. Those deaths pulled the trigger on a creative bullet of glacial velocity.

A mere decade later, he began work on Certainty, a film that doesn't so much say how he feels, it explains why he feels.

Hauka writes, directs and produces the film, much of which was completed over long evenings at home after his work day.

"I have two stickers on my computer screen," Hauka said. "One is KISS, keep it simple stupid, which is very hard for me. The other is Memento Mori."

Be mindful of death.

"That's so I get the work done," he said.

Certainty is built on a foundation of haunting classical and post-modern cello works and as such, unfolds in movements. Rather than dialogue, there is narration, but rather than spoken narration, it unfolds as print across the screen.

"In a test screening last year I noticed that as the film went on people were leaning further and further forward in their chairs," Hauka said. Processing Hauka's work is, well, work.

Carried downstream by the music, you are forced to actively process everything Hauka feeds you as well as process your own visceral reactions.

A few viewers at the screening were overcome when a particular moment opened the gates on their own repressed memories, Hauka said.

Certainty was recently accepted to screen at the Globians World and Culture Documentary Film Festival in Berlin. Hauka is thrilled, though he bridles at the idea of calling his film a documentary; essay is the word he prefers.

Certainty does owe a tip of the hat to Jane Loader and Kevin Rafferty's classic doc The Atomic Cafe, the film that inspired and shaped the career of proto-liberal documentarist Michael Moore.

Futuristic images of technology from the 1950s and '60s (of which there are plenty in Atomic Cafe and Certainty) aside, Hauka's way of letting the juxtaposition of fact with fact reveal his meaning and his closest-held feelings of melancholy is a technique used to its greatest effect by Loader and Rafferty.

"It's nice that [Certainty] is resonant with [Atomic Cafe], because it was one of those really important movies," Hauka said.

"Documentary filmmaking is not 'Here are the facts,'" he said. "It's more interpretive and poetic."

Hauka is working on a sequel with the working title Awkward, picking up where Certainty leaves off. You can see a trailer for Certainty at by entering "Certainty" in the search field at the bottom of the splash page.