18000 Dead in Gordon Head

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18,000 Dead In Gordon Head
Directed by Clive Holden
Written by Clive Holden
Release dates
  • 2001 (2001)
Running time 13 minutes
Country Canada
Language English

18,000 Dead In Gordon Head (2001) is a 13 minute, short film by Canadian film-maker Clive Holden, based on an actual murder he witnessed while visiting his hometown in Victoria, British Columbia.

The film was part of Holden's Trains of Winnipeg series.

Plot[edit]

On a quiet, suburban street in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and in the middle of the afternoon on a summer's day in 1982, Clive Holden witnessed the murder of a teenaged girl as she was killed by a sniper's bullet. A year later, Holden returned to the scene of the senseless slaying to lie with his camera on the spot where she died, in order to film and capture the effect of her tragic and sudden death.

The film is so titled in reference to the statistic that the average sixteen-year-old has already witnessed 18,000 murders, on television and at the movies. The locale of Gordon Head is the Canadian suburb where the murder happened, and where the film thus takes place.

Footage lost, footage found[edit]

The original footage for the film project was shot on Super 8 film; however, this footage was lost before it could be edited. Twenty years later, a crude VHS video dub of the original project was found. Much of the footage was damaged footage and out of sync, with but still managed to remain evocative of the filmmaker's hazy and murky memories of the original event at Gordon Head. The footage inspired Holden to write a narrative poem of the event and thus formed the basis of the completed 35mm film.

"Composed as a poem, it's a hybrid of several film stocks and video formats, digitally processed to create a violent, yet lyrical, collage of textured loops, internal rhythms and visual rhymes, finally completing the work's cycle back to film."[1]

A social statement[edit]

As horrifying and remarkable as the girl's sudden murder by the sniper was, the young filmmaker also found it devastatingly normal, and this bothered him to no end. As the film suggests, Holden had "already seen it, thousands of times." He felt desensitized and numb to it all. The film details an ensuing series of violent events that Holden went on to witness, and he remained numb, until a small, positive action broke his hazy spell.

"He (being Holden, the film's narrator) feels like he's seeing something he's seen thousands of times before", Holden says, "and in fact he has." As a result of being witness to so many violent images, "we grow insensitive to death and violence. It becomes devastatingly normal."[2]

'18,000 Dead in Gordon Head' is a statement about the ever-presence of violence in our contemporary culture, even found in the banality of Canadian suburban life. Based on and composed as a poem, the final work is fused together with an eerie, haunting soundtrack to lend to its overall harrowing effect of communicating the omnipresent creature of violence within human beings.

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