UNSTEADY LANDSCAPES: 40th Anniversary of the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto

Dust Cycles by Eva Kolcze


Toronto, May 13, 2021—The Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto (LIFT) officially came into being in April of 1981. Inspired in part by efforts of collective networking such as what was done at the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative (AFCOOP) in Halifax, LIFT was founded by a group of artists who were interested in providing support to filmmakers in Toronto. After managing to grow from a rented office at the Harbourfront Centre to our current building on Dupont Street in the city’s west end, we were hoping our 40th year would be our biggest one yet.

Because celebrations of this particular milestone have proven to be somewhat muted amidst the third wave of COVID-19 here in Ontario, we wanted to take a step back and pull from the past to gather optimism for the future. This program enables us to recall the collaboration, creativity and tenacity that has marked our past forty years as an artist-run centre. While this program is not a comprehensive list of the work that has been made by the LIFT community, we wanted to use it to provide a sense of growth about where we might be heading.

Nine of the ten films collected here were directly supported by LIFT’s programming over the past few decades, either through a production grant, mentorship, residency, commission or community partnership. The one outlier in this is Shelley Niro’s “Honey Moccasin,” which received production support in the way thousands of others have over the years, through rental equipment and collaboration with fellow LIFT members. Produced in 1998, this landmark film incorporates video, bends genres, and challenges expectations around notions of authenticity, gender and the modern indigenous experience. “Honey Moccasin” shares a keen exploration of a landscape shifting underfoot and the will to persevere at all costs with the other films in this program.

In some cases, the shifting landscape is quite literally the text of the film. This takes form in the swirling overhead shot of Eva Kolcze’s “Dust Cycles” (2018) revealing an abandoned house, giving way to erosion, sliding down the sandy shoals of the Scarborough Bluffs. It also appears in Amanda Strong’s elegiac call to arms to save the bees and consider the human impact on the environment in “Honey for Sale” (2009). In other cases, it is more subtle, as in Rolla Tahir’s bittersweet “Sira” (2018), which explores her family’s immigration story across three countries from the perspective of her mother. Time and place become pliable in Josephine Massarella’s hands in her experimental masterpiece “165708” (2017), while Leslie Supnet’s “The Peak Experience” (2018) guides the viewer through the slipperiness of memory and manifestation.

Regardless of what form their films take, each of them shows a way to grapple and navigate through the politics of modern life. These political landscapes include affirmations of one’s gender identity in Susan Justin’s animated short “Cut” (2008); the fight for labour rights in Loveleen Kaur’s and Mariam Zaidi’s “Behind the Fare” (2015); or the tension that exists in traversing the built landscape in Adam Roy Cohoon’s Super8 film, “Welcome to Ataratiri” (2017). Cultural memory and politics further converge in Sharlene Bamboat’s hybrid documentary Video “Home System” (2018), which unpacks how cinema and art survive in a bootleg economy under state censorship.

LIFT has striven over the past forty years to promote Toronto’s rich film culture by creating space for a plurality of visions. Forged in the 1980s when the media arts community was torn between video and analogue practices and amid a climate of draconian censorship that tried to suffocate unorthodox media exhibition, LIFT persevered. Toronto can still be hostile to artists and the organizations that support them but these films are indicative of a hard-won creative landscape. We look forward to forty more years of helping bring projects to life!

Free streaming starts May 28 at 10am EDT
and runs through to June 6, 2021 at 11:59pm EDT

Links to program on VUCAVU:
English Text: https://vucavu.com/en/lift/unsteady-landscapes
French Text: https://vucavu.com/lift/unsteady-landscapes-40e

The program will include:
“Video Home System” by Sharlene Bamboat (2016 Production/Post-Production Grant)
“The Peak Experience” by Leslie Supnet (LIFT/PIX 2017 Film Studio Immersion Program, Funded the Petman Foundation)
“165708” by Josephine Massarella (2015 Production/Post-Production Grant)
“Behind the Fare” by Loveleen Kaur and Mariam Zaidi (2015 Production/Post-Production Grant)
“Dust Cycles” by Eva Kolcze (2014 Production/Post-Production Grant)
“Cut” by Susan Justin (2008 Production/Post-Production Grant)
“Honey for Sale” by Amanda Strong (2009 LIFT/imagineNATIVE Mentorship Program)
“Sira” by Rolla Tahir (2017 Madvo Collection Commissioning Project, supported by the Canada Council for the Arts)
“Welcome to Ataratiri” by Adam Roy Cohoon (2016 Film Access Program in partnership with Tangled Art + Disability, supported by the Ontario Arts Council)
“Honey Moccasin” by Shelley Niro (Production Support through member rentals)

For additional information please e-mail Development Coordinator Cayley James at development@lift.on.ca

About the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto (LIFT)
The Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto (LIFT) is Canada’s foremost artist-run production and education organization dedicated to celebrating excellence in the moving image. LIFT exists to provide support and encouragement for independent filmmakers and artists through affordable access to production, post-production and exhibition equipment; professional and creative development; workshops and courses; commissioning and exhibitions; artist residencies; and a variety of other services. LIFT is supported by its membership, Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Ontario Trillium Foundation, Ontario Arts Foundation, the Government of Ontario and the Toronto Arts Council. https://lift.ca

VUCAVU is operated by the non-profit Coalition of Canadian Independent Media Art Distributors (CCIMAD). CCIMAD was established in 2013 by a group of independent Canadian film and video distributors to improve international accessibility to their catalogues through a shared digital distribution strategy. To this end, they established VUCAVU, which works with independent film and video distributors from across Canada to improve access to Canadian works and to provide greater national and international awareness of Canadian filmmakers and video artists. VUCAVU currently streams about 1,400+ films and videos spanning 50 years of Canadian moving image art to the public. For curators and educators, there are an additional 3,000+ titles that are available for research and educational purposes. VUCAVU.com specializes in offering time-limited curated and theme-based public screening programs and is always expanding with new ongoing partnerships, a broadening group of content providers and art presenting partners.


Friday 28 May 2021 – Sunday 6 June 2021

Non-members: Free
Members: Free