Keewatin Dewdney


Keewatin Dewdney (Canada) is a Canadian mathematician, computer scientist, author, and filmmaker. He started making films in 1966 with a background in mathematics, cybernetics, humanities, poetry, and collage, after taking one of George Manupelli’s cinematography classes while completing PhD coursework in Mathematics at the University of Michigan (1965–1968). Dewdney holds an Hon BSc in Mathematics from the University of Western Ontario (1964), an MSC (1965) and a PhD (1975) in Mathematics from the University of Waterloo. His films gained considerable attention in the 1960s mainly due to his associations with Manupelli, who was founder and Director of Ann Arbor Film Festival, and his friendship with Jonas Mekas. Dewdney was professor at the University of Waterloo (1974–1995) with general areas of specialization that included Analysis of Algorithms; Computation and Complexity Theory; Discrete Mathematics and Algorithms; Neural Computation; and Mathematical Biology. Since the nineties, Dewdney has worked on biology, both as a field ecologist and as a mathematical biologist, contributing a solution to the problem of determining the underlying dynamics of species abundance in natural communities. He has published more than 10 books on scientific possibilities and puzzles, and was a co-inventor of the programming game Core War. “Keewatin” is an Ojibway word meaning “north wind.”


ONLINE SCREENING DATES: December 2 – December 23, 2020

FILMS IN THIS PROGRAM: The Maltese Cross Movement, 7 min, 1967 

The Maltese Cross Movement, 7 min, 1967 

The film reflects Dewdney’s conviction that the projector, not the camera, is the filmmaker’s true medium. The form and content of the film are shown to derive directly from the mechanical operation of the projector—specifically the maltese cross movement’s animation of the disk and the cross illustrates graphically (pun intended) the projector’s essential parts and movements. It also alludes to a dialectic of continuous-discontinuous movements that pervades the apparatus, from its central mechanical operation to the spectator’s perception of the film’s images ... (His) soundtrack demonstrates that what we hear is also built out of continuous-discontinuous “sub-sets.” The film is organized around the principle that it can only complete itself when enough separate and discontinuous sounds have been stored up to provide the male voice on the soundtrack with the sounds needed to repeat a little girl’s poem: The cross revolves at sunset / The moon returns at dawn / If you die tonight, / Tomorrow you are gone. – William Wees

The Maltese Cross Movement is a work in two parts – it is a book and a film. The book is a densely codified work of collage and poetry – or collage-poetry, as the poems themselves are codified into symbols, logograms, hieroglyphics. In a letter to Clara Meyer, office manager of the CFMDC, Dewdney described the genesis of the Maltese Cross Movement: “three years ago I began to take hallucinogenic drugs and within a year’s time was so disoriented I conceived the idea of doing a book and film simultaneously. The MCM is the result. The film is so perfectly private and takes up so many themes from my personal/intellectual life (these appear as ‘stills’ in the book) that it is almost public. I believe in the theory of brief visual presentations as the basis for a whole new direction within film. We see a trend this way in TV commercials already. These presentations were not as brief as I would have wished in the MCM because I am quite lazy. I made the whole film (at the synchronizer) while listening to the Cream’s first album. All this strikes me as relevant.”1 Dewdney’s playful modesty betrays the diligent, demanding construction of the film — that it was made on a synchronizer clarifies its metric character, its images carefully measured out and reassembled by frames. The film’s soundtrack is made up of fragments, of voices reading poetry, of prolonged vocalizing, and of the Beach Boys’ “Gettin’ Hungry”. – Stephen Broomer

Read the article in Lumière Magazine here.

Screening co-presented with the Canadian Filmmaker’s Distribution Centre.