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Buffalo Death Mask

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by Mike Hoolboom
Canada / 23:00 / 2013
sound / colour & b/w / English

A conversation with Canadian artist Stephen Andrews returns us to a pre-cocktail moment, when being HIV+ afforded us the consolation of certainty.

“For more than two decades Mike Hoolboom has been one of our foremost artistic witnesses of the plague of the twentieth century, HIV. A personal voice documenting and piercing the clichéd spectrum of Living With AIDS from carnal abjection to incandescent spirituality, no surviving moving image visionary surpasses him. Buffalo Death Mask is a three-part meditation — visual, oral and haptic, both campy and ecstatic — on survival, mourning, memory, love and community. A conversation between Hoolboom and visual artist Stephen Andrews, both long time survivors of the retrovirus, floats over what seems to be a dream of Toronto and some of its ghosts. No one savours the intimations of immortality inherent in recycled footage like Mike, no one else understands how processed Super 8 can answer the question "Why are we still here when so many are gone?" -- Tom Waugh

Mask is insightful, wise, poignant, honest, evocative, and shaded beautifully and sadly with longing.” -- Tom McSorley

“From a very strong program there were several impressive works; however there can only be one winner. The winning film highlights universal themes in a poignant, personal way. Through earnest dialogue and dreamlike imagery it laments sickness and death and how losing the ones you love is also losing part of yourself. A striking, warm film.” (International Critics (FIPRESCI) Prize, Oberhausen)

“The FIPRESCI jury’s International Film Critics’ Award went to Canadian filmmaker Mike Hoolbloom for Buffalo Death Mask (2013), a striking and contemporary upgrade on the traditional underground film diary. Featuring a remarkably earnest conversation between two HIV positive friends discussing new medication as well as memories of friends and lovers lost to the virus, Buffalo Death Mask was both personal and universal in its approach. Blended together with home movie footage and obscured faces, the film achieved a resonant harmony between its dialogue and image.” (Out of the Melting Pot by Tara Judah, Australian Film Critics Association)

"Buffalo Death Mask proves the valuable potential of a cinematic expression that resists clichés and directly transposes the most painful human experience, the loss of a loved one.” (Jury statement for Critics Prize, 25FPS Festival, Croatia)


  • art and artists
  • autobiography
  • body
  • political/social activism
  • Queer/Bi/Trans

Exhibition Formats

  • Other


  • experimental
  • queer
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