Born in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Philip Hoffman’s filmmaking began with his boyhood interest in photography. As semi-official historian of family life, Hoffman became intrigued by questions of reality in photography and later in cinema. After completing his formal education which includes a Diploma in Media Arts at Sheridan College and a Bachelor of Arts in Literature at Wilfrid Laurier University, Hoffman began working on his films, as well as teaching film, electronic and computer-based media in the Media Arts Program at Sheridan College. Currently Hoffman teaches in the Cinema and Media Arts Department at York University.
A film artist of memory and association, Philip Hoffman has long been recognized as Canada’s pre-eminent diary filmmaker. He apprenticed in Europe with Peter Greenaway in 1985, where he made ?O,Zoo! (The Making of a Fiction Film) (1985), which was nominated for a Canadian Genie Award. On passing through/torn formations (1988), Stan Brakhage recognized how “Hoffman’s editing throughout is true to thought process, tracks visual theme as the mind tracks shape, makes melody of noise and words as the mind recalls sound.” Hoffman has been honored with more than a dozen retrospectives of his work. Among them was the centrepiece series at the 2001 Images Festival for Independent Film and Video in Toronto, coupled with the launch of a book titled Landscape with Shipwreck: First Person Cinema and the Films of Philip Hoffman, comprising some 25 essays by academics and artists. As well in 2002 he received the Golden Gate Award from the San Francisco International Film Festival and Gus Van Sant Award from the Ann Arbor Film Festival for What These Ashes Wanted, a diaristic meditation on loss and grief.
In 2009 he premiered his feature-length experimental documentary, All Fall Down, at the Berlin International Film Festival. The film is a reflection on childhood, property, ecology and love. Hoffman completed three works in 2014: Slaughterhouse (based on his installation for LandSlide, at the Markham Museum) and Aged, which have won awards at the Black Maria Festival in New Jersey, and Onion City Film Festival in Chicago, respectively. Also in 2014, Hoffman was a participating artist in the exhibition Border Cultures, at the Art Gallery of Windsor, where he presented the interactive work Racing Home (from an unfinished film by Marian McMahon), produced through A.R.C. at Concordia University in Montreal.
In 2016 Docpoint Documentary FIlm Festival in Helsinki mounted an “Introspective”, gathering together five programs of Hoffman’s works, along with works of students and artists he was involved with during the 1990’s in Finland. Since 1994, he has been the artistic director of the Independent Imaging Retreat (Film Farm), a 1 week workshop in artisanal filmmaking in Mount Forest, Ontario. In 2016 Hoffman received the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.