University of Toronto

Innis Alumni & Friends

Conundrums and Disjunctions: The Innis Film Society, 1985-1993

Conundrums and Disjunctions: The Innis Film Society, 1985-1993.

To celebrate Innis College’s 50th anniversary, the long disbanded Innis Film Society (IFS) will be reconstituted to present a special program of experimental films hosted by original members Bart Testa, Jim Shedden, Kate McKay and Mike Zryd. They will share a few recollections and screen a generous selection of the IFS’s greatest hits, including Joyce Wieland’s Sailboat, Keewatin Dewdney’s Maltese Cross Movement and Hollis Frampton’s Gloria!

The origins of the Innis Film Society lay within the College’s Student Society that, from the opening of Town Hall in 1975, showed movies free of charge to students and public alike. Some years, they did so regularly, some years only occasionally. Then, in the 1980s, a special group of students with an interest in experimental cinema took control of the IFS and began to focus programming on avant-garde films while interspersing them with features and documentaries. Within a few years, the mid-late Eighties, Town Hall had become a destination for touring artist filmmakers and the IFS hosted a good many of them, including Owen Land, Ernie Gehr, Warren Sonbert, Marjorie Keller, Robert Breer, Barbara Sternberg, Bruce Elder and Stan Brakhage. The climax came with the International Experimental Film Congress in June of 1989, an event managed by ICS member Jim Shedden, and a collaboration that involved hundreds of filmmakers and programmers and critics, and born of a collaboration with the Art Gallery of Ontario, York University and the Goethe Institute. The IFS continued vigorous programs until 1994 but most members had graduated and developed other commitments. Some continued to work closely with experimental films, as Shedden did at the AGO while also directing the documentary Brakhage. Now head of programming at the Pacific Film Archive, Susan Oxtoby ran the experimental section at the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Center and then became a programmer at Cinematheque Ontario, where she originated the “Free Screen” and at the Toronto Film Festival she started the showcase “Wavelengths” program. After running the projection booth at the Cinematheque for more than a decade, Kate MacKay has become the artistic director of the experimental Images festival and programs the Gladstone Hotel’s Early Monthly Segments. Mike Zryd is a film professor at York University.

The IFS was in effect replaced by a new program, “Free Friday Films,” a natural outgrowth of the Cinema Studies Student Union (CINNSU), which shows a variety of feature films on a weekly basis.  CINNSU is partnering with the Innis Film Society members for this special flashback program of films.



First film:
Gunvor Nelson, Take Off 


Second set of films: 

Kenneth Anger, Kustom Kar Kommandos (1965, 3 min., Kate MacKay )

David Rimmer, Variations on a Cellophone Wrapper (1970, 9 min, U of T/AGO)

Bruce Conner Cosmic Ray (1962, 4 minutes)

Joyce Wieland, Sailboat (1967, 3 min. U of T/AGO)
Stan Brakhage Dante Quartet (1987, 8 min, CFMDC)
Owen Land, On the Marriage Broker Joke as Cited in his Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious or Can the Avant-Garde Artist be Wholed? (1977, 18 min, CFMDC)

Third set of films:
Keewatin Dewdney, Maltese Cross Movement (1967, 8min, CFMDC)
Carolee Schneemann, Fuses (1965, 18 minutes, U of T)
Paul Sharits, T.O.U.C.H.I.N.G., (1968, 12 min, CFMDC)
Hollis Frampton, Gloria! (1979, 10 min, Bart Testa