Chris Kennedy

“Backbone: Early Vancouver Experimental Cinema 1967-1981”, curated by Richard Martin. November 7, 2013

Backbone: Early Vancouver Experimental Cinema 1967-1981
Curated by Richard Martin

Vancouver’s film scene of the late sixties and seventies was a well of exploratory talent. Nurtured by genre-bending organizations like the Inter-Media Arts Society, a new generation of filmmakers explored a range of possibilities of what film could be, from psychedelic head-trips to experimental dramas to feminist critiques.

In his documentary Backbone: Early Vancouver Experimental Cinema, curator Richard Martin interviews many of the artists working during this era alongside current practitioners like Alex MacKenzie, eliciting numerous fascinating anecdotes. Back then, the filmmakers were a motley crew: the iconoclastic Al Razutis built his own optical printer and projected films on downtown buildings; the serene David Rimmer haggled for support from the local NFB offices even while remixing their footage into his own structural films. Most have continued to work in film, some (Razutis, Rimmer and Chris Gallagher) continuing in experimental practice, while others (Sturla Gunnarsson, Kirk Tougas and Tom Braidwood) have made their mark in the Canadian mainstream. In either case, the films they made in the seventies both foresaw their future talents and documented an important moment of creativity and uncompromising experimentation.

With the support of Moving Images Distribution, Richard Martin created the Backbone project as a way to remind us of that moment and return these films into circulation. While some, like Canadian Pacific 1 and The Central Character, have long been accepted into the canon of Canadian cinema (although they are still rarely seen), others, such as Steel Mushrooms and In Black and White, have been almost completely lost from view. These recent digital restorations bring the films back in all their visual glory, reasserting the visceral impact of a particularly fertile period of Canadian image-making.

Steel Mushrooms dir. Gary Lee-Nova | Canada 1967 | 7.5 min. | 16mm on video
Lumiere’s Train (Arriving at the Station) dir. Al Razutis | Canada 1979 | 9 min. | 16mm on video
A Day Much Like the Others dir. Sturla Gunnarsson | Canada 1977 | 4 min. | 16mm on video
Seeing in the Rain dir. Chris Gallagher | Canada 1981 | 10 min. | 16mm on video
The Central Character dir. Patricia Gruben | Canada 1977 | 15 min. | 16mm on video
Canadian Pacific 1 dir. David Rimmer | Canada 1974 | 11 min. | 16mm on video
Backbone dir. Tom Braidwood | Canada 1972 | 11 min. 16mm on video
Eclipse dir. Peter Lipskis | Canada 1979 | 3.5 min. | 16mm on video
From Quebec (Loin du Québec) dir. Kirk Tougas | Canada 1971 | 15 min. | 16mm on video
In Black and White dir. Michael McGarry | Canada 1979 | 10 min. | 16mm on video

Approx. total running time: 96 min.

Co-presented with

Backbone: Early Vancouver Experimental Cinema 1967-1981 was supported by the Initiatives program, Canada Council for the Arts, and this presentation was supported by the touring program, British Columbia Council Arts Council.

Alex MacKenzie in person.

Thursday, November 7 6:30 pm