Chris Kennedy

“Underground: The Funnel Experimental Film Co-op, 1977–1988,” curated by Mike Hoolboom, January 31, 2017

Underground: The Funnel Experimental Film Co-op, 1977–1988
curated by Mike Hoolboom

The best-kept secret of the Canadian film underground remains the Funnel, a fabled experimental film collective that remapped fringe practice in Toronto for a decade by building its own theatres, re-versioning home-movie equipment to produce avant-garde art, and publishing its own articles of faith. Twenty-five years after it folded its tents, the inner sanctums have remained shrouded in a haze of banishments and dark rumours; there have been almost no attempts to tell the story, no retrospective screenings or anniversary toasts.

To mark the launch of Mike Hoolboom’s monograph Underground: The untold story of the Funnel film collective (published by the Canadian Film Institute), the author presents a programme of films made during the heyday of the Funnel’s existence. Run by a band of hippies-turned-punks, the Funnel was bound by a communal ethos that expressed itself in volunteerism, a shared set of historical codes, and aesthetic benchmarks derived from artists’ films, all fuelled by a radically egalitarian decision-making process; more than once, faced with yet another crisis, the entire membership would be summoned for a meeting that no one even imagined ducking.

Through it all, they tried to maintain a space for a minor cinema, and the thousand undreamt worlds that these new pictures might make possible. Along the way there were censorship mountains, personality divides, film-versus-video head scratchings and the flowering of community. It’s harder to imagine such a thing existing now, this fiercely first-person cinema relying on a collective architecture and shared gear. Was the Funnel a necessary prelude, a final analog embrace before the digital floodtide, a tribal summons? Where had we been all those years anyway — the Underground? —Mike Hoolboom

Expanded notes here.

Ville – quelle ville? dir. Midi Onodera | Canada 1984 | 4 min. Super 8 on digital
DP2 dir. Peter Dudar | Canada 2014 | 16 min. Digital
The Iconography of Venus dir. Annette Mangaard | Canada 1987 | 5 min 16mm
Eye of the Mask (excerpt) dir. Judith Doyle | Canada 1985 | 27 min 16mm
Canada Mini-Notes dir. Jim Anderson | Canada 1974 | 15 min 16mm