Chick Strand


Chick Strand (USA) was born Mildred D. Totman in Northern California in 1931. She became one of the pioneering figures of American experimental cinema. Strand studied anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley and ethnography at UCLA. She arrived at filmmaking from an interest in photography and collage. In the early 1960s she co-organized screenings and happenings with filmmaker Bruce Baillie in their backyard in Canyon, California. In 1961, Strand established Canyon Cinemanews, a monthly newspaper which became the focal point for the West Coast independent film movement. Canyon Cinema Foundation was formally incorporated in 1967 and exists today as a distributor of avant-garde film with nearly 3,500 prints available for circulation and screening. Later came the San Francisco Cinematheque which similarly grew out of Strand and Baillies backyard happenings. Predominantly a presenting venue, San Francisco Cinematheque was officially established as a non-profit in 1977. Strand completed nearly 20 films between 1964–2009. Her films explore notions of objective reality, philosophical questions of the theory of the mind, and tackle themes of gender and sexuality in an attempt to deconstruct unequal power relations. Screenings of her work have been held at the New York and London Film Festivals, Tate Modern, Cineteca Madrid, Berkeley Art Museum Pacific Film Archive, Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, Swedish Film Institute, and many others. Strand was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1970. Her complete body of work is in the collection of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. The Academy Film Archive preserved a number of her films with funding from LACMA and Martin Scorcese’s Film Foundation. Her film Fake Fruit Factory (1986) is included on the National Film Preservation Foundation’s Treasure IV: American Avant Garde Film (1947–1986). Strand died in 2009.  


ONLINE SCREENING DATES: May 20 – June 10, 2021 

FILMS IN THIS PROGRAM:  Cosas de mi Vida, 24 min, 1976

Cosas de mi Vida, 24 min, 1976

Strand spent more than twenty years documenting her friend Anselmo Aguascalientes’ life, creating a stunning trilogy of films — Anselmo (1967), Cosas de mi Vida (1976), and Anselmo and the Women (1986) — tender portraits that are also glimpses into poverty, resourcefulness, perseverance, and patriarchy. – Canyon Cinema

For most of her filmmaking career, the integrity of Strand’s vision lay aslant of prevailing fashions, so that only belatedly did the full significance of her radically pioneering work in ethnographic, documentary, feminist, and compilation filmmaking — and above all, in the innovation of a unique film language created across these modes — become clear. Though feminism and other currents of her times are woven through her films and though her powerful teaching presence sustained the ideals of underground film in several film schools in the city, hers was essentially a school of one. – David James

All stills, photographs, and artwork courtesy Canyon Cinema and ©Chick Strand Estate/ Canyon Cinema. Screening co-presented with Canyon Cinema.