Re: [Frameworks] Any report from Return to Canyon program (SF Cinematheque)?

From: Steve Polta (email suppressed)
Date: Sun Sep 26 2010 - 15:31:01 PDT

To elaborate on this, for any on the list who may desire more information, these two "Return to Canyon" events took place last Thursday and Friday (9/23 & 9/24) and celebrated the "early days" ('60s for the most part) of the screening and organizing events which evolved into Canyon Cinema, the film distributor, and San Francisco Cinematheque, the exhibitor/archive/advocate (with whom I have worked, doin' this 'n' that, for nearly twelve years). Short story is that "it all began" with a more-or-less spontaneous film screening shown on a sheet (or was it a blanket?) in the front yard (or was in back yard?) of Bruce Baillie's home (or his mother's home) in Canyon CA (that's a location, an unincorporated cluster of homes, a small one-room (more or less) school, post office and nothin' else), located in the wilds over the hills from Oakland CA (near Moraga, and actually surprisingly close—googlemaps showed it a 35 minute drive from San Francisco, but of
 course, getting lost is half the fun). This primal screening actually happened in 1961 so we jumped the gun for the 50th anniversary celebration but the occasion of PFA's publication of RADICAL LIGHT and the associated exhibitions made it all come together. (Note: the first of the two screenings to which I allude took place at SFMOMA on Thursday and is not the subject of this report).

So anyway, and first of all, this event was largely conceived of and organized by Melinda Stone of the University of San Francisco and Liz Keim of the Exploratorium, and produced by a class they teach at USF with a lot of support and collaboration from the Middle School classes in Canyon. I want to give these people a ton of credit because they deserve it and it really was a great event.

As far as the event itself, the thing was very fun, very festive and very much seemed some kind of throwback or shift into some kind of idyllic '60s fantasy world that also seemed largely like some sort of outdoor mid-summer's eve celebration in the Elven lands of LORD OF THE RINGS (or something). Party/dining area near the school, potluck with great food, kids from the school selling stuff as a fundraiser even. Local filmmaker's jug band The Goat Family (featuring filmmakers Rock Ross, Thad Povey and others) played for like an hour and even sang happy birthday to Bruce Baillie (and it really was—coincidentally—his birthday). Totally good, relaxed, summer evening picnic vibe. Maybe 100–150 people, lots of kids and families, kids running around and dancing. Very festive. Screening itself was in "the grove," a cluster of awesome redwood trees—the kinds that are like fifteen feet in diameter and hundreds of feet high. Folks laying on blankets, very
 nice night, moon rose during screening, during silent films cricket chirping loudly was amazing. Wandering the site, the films really held the screen, looked magical from a distance, the bright colors in the dark night (and it *was* really dark). Short docs by Canyon school kids on their school and community brought the community into it, but really the whole event was about this location, and the people who lived out there loved it; apparently there had been rumors about some things that had happened there in the '60s so many were fascinated by the whole thing. Filmwise, you can read the (partial) film list in Alain's link; largely Northern California films and filmmakers—Baillie, G. Nelson, Strand, Angerame—good show largely about NorCal light and landscape and the counter-cultural vibe that has permeated the scene out here (for better or worse, right East Coasters?). Deer on the roads on the way back to "civilization."

I hope this is an interesting report. Again, this was largely the project of Melinda Stone and Liz Keim. Stone in particular is, IMO, a really wonderful artist whose work really is the organization of such large scale public events (including the San Francisco Market Street event of 2006; The California Tour of defunct drive-ins; 2001's "Sink or Swim" event with Cinematheque; etc). Her events bring people together in magical ways, often incorporating filmmakers and a-g film, and open up locations to communities, encouraging the creative consideration of geography and history like nothing else I really know. Despite the scale of some of her events, I'm not sure she receives meaningful recognition for this (which may be as she wants it, I dunno). But let's give her (and Liz, and the kids) credit.

So there you go. I'd be interested to hear others' reactions...

Steve Polta
reporting from Mudrakers' Cafe in Berkeley CA

--- On Sat, 9/25/10, 40 Frames <email suppressed> wrote:

From: 40 Frames <email suppressed>
Subject: [Frameworks] Any report from Return to Canyon program (SF Cinematheque)?
To: "Experimental Film Discussion List" <email suppressed>
Date: Saturday, September 25, 2010, 6:14 AM

The Return to Canyon program series looks wonderful. Any reports from the field? I'm particularly interested to


Alain LeTourneau
Pam Minty
Attention: Pam Minty
PO Box 15207
+1 503 231 6548
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