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Castro Street


Cosmic Ray

Alternative Visions

Tuesday, November 25, 2008
7:30 p.m. Canyon Cinema: The Life and Times of an Independent Film Distributor
Bruce Baillie, Ernest Callenbach, Bruce Conner, Robert Nelson, Anne Severson, Chick Strand (U.S., 1965–79)

Introduction and Booksigning by Scott MacDonald


Following the screening, author, film historian, and teacher Scott MacDonald will sign copies of Canyon Cinema: The Life and Times of an Independent Film Distributor, just published by University of California Press and on sale at the screening and in the Museum Store. Purchase a copy at the screening and receive the 10 percent members’ discount!

The 1960s saw the emergence of cinemas that offered alternatives to Hollywood commercial filmmaking, including new approaches to documentary and experimental filmmaking. The Bay Area was one of the centers of the New American Cinema. By the early 1960s, Bruce Baillie and Chick Strand had begun informal screenings at an anarchist, mobile venue they were calling “Canyon Cinema.” Soon, Canyon was publishing the Cinemanews, which by the end of the decade had become an international nexus for information about alternative media; in 1966 Canyon became a distributor of 16mm prints. The filmmakers who were part of the emergence of Canyon Cinema and who made the organization a success also created a remarkable body of films that were widely influential and remain a considerable pleasure to experience and to think about. Bruce Conner’s “recycling” of earlier films ultimately helped to instigate MTV. Robert Nelson’s Oh Dem Watermelons remains a powerful (and funny) attack on American racism. In Near the Big Chakra, Anne Severson—mistress of ceremonies at early Canyon screenings—brought shock value to early film feminism.

—Scott MacDonald

Scott MacDonald also presents Canyon Cinema programs on November 21 and 22 with Canyon Cinema and on November 23 with San Francisco Cinematheque. Please see www.canyoncinema.com and www.sfcinematheque.org, respectively, for details.

Tung (Bruce Baillie, 1966, 5 mins, Silent, Color/B&W). Wildwood Flower (Ernest Callenbach, 1965, 4 mins, Color). Waterfall (Chick Strand, 1967, 3 mins, Color). Cosmic Ray (Bruce Conner, 1962, 5 mins, B&W). Oh Dem Watermelons (Robert Nelson, 1965, 11 mins, Color). Near the Big Chakra (Anne Severson (Alice Anne Parker), 1972, 17 mins, Silent, Color). Castro Street (Bruce Baillie, 1966, 10 mins, Color/B&W). Kristallnacht (Chick Strand, 1979, 7 mins, B&W)

• (Total running time: 62 mins, 16mm, From Canyon Cinema, PFA Collection)