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The Taking film image

Alexander O. Philippe has made some of the best, most thought-provoking films-about-films in recent years, including 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene and Lynch/Oz, about how the Wizard of Oz remains a touchstone in the work of David Lynch. The Taking is not about one filmmaker or film, but about a place: Monument Valley, and its representation in the popular imagination, primarily of course in westerns, and especially — obsessively — in the western movies of John Ford. (Check out The Searchers, playing at VIFF Centre this week, for the definitive example.)

Ford “discovered” Monument Valley with his first John Wayne western, Stagecoach (1939), and returned many times thereafter, with the unmistakable butte outcrops standing in for Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, Nebraska, South Dakota, you name it: for Ford, this place embodied the very idea of the West, the American frontier, if you will. That idea encapsulates many things: pioneers, opportunity, freedom, space… And, crucially, as The Taking points out forcefully, it also obscures many things: the people for whom this was home before the Europeans claimed it for themselves; theft; repression; genocide. In other words, it supplants historical truth with myth. (Famously, in Ford’s film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, a character remarks: “This is the West… When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”)

Ford’s superb compositional sense and the artistry of his films influenced many other filmmakers, and in turn the advertising industry. Monument Valley is as iconic as the Statue of Liberty or Mt Rushmore, an emblem of America. It’s also of course a tourist attraction now, and the film is very evocative on what it is that we are hoping to capture and convey when we take our selfies against these backdrops: some kind of communion with the ghost of John Wayne? This may be what we take. But then, equally importantly, what is that we should give back…?


Alexandre O. Philippe


Jennifer Nez Denetdale, Liza Black, Sir Christopher Frayling, Robert M. Bednar, John Bucher

Country of Origin





In English and Italian with English subtitles

76 min

Book Tickets

Tuesday May 30

8:10 pm
Hearing Assistance Subtitles
VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre
Book Now


Executive Producer

Felix Gill


Kerry Deignan Roy


Robert Muratore for Exhibit A Pictures, Cathy Trekloff for Milkhaus


Alexandre O. Philippe


Robert Muratore


Dave Krahling

Original Music

Jon Hegel