104 Pages


Terence Macartney-Filgate-scriptwriter, cinematographer, director, producer, and iconoclast-is best known for his pioneering work on ‘‘Candid Eye,’’ the landmark series of documentary films made by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) for CBC Television in 1958-1959. These films, which combined a reportage style with handheld camera, synch-sound, natural lighting, and noncontinuity editing, represented an important challenge to the authoritative, didactic documentary tradition entrenched by the NFB’s founder and first commissioner JohnGrierson. Macartney-Filgate’s interest in this new approach

to documentary filmmaking was sparked by the films of the British ‘‘Free Cinema’’ movement of the 1950s, which demonstrated to him the possibility of taking people in situ, rather than forming them to a prestructured story. He was further inspired by the work of French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, whose book, The Decisive Moment, became the Candid Eye team’s ‘‘bible.’’ Along with Wolf Koenig and Roman Kroitor, two of his chief ‘‘Candid Eye’’ collaborators, Macartney-Filgate attempted to do in film what Cartier-Bresson was doing with stills, allowing the films’ structure to arise organically out of everyday activities in the lives of ordinary people, which were candidly recorded by the camera. We may regard Macartney-Filgate as one of the

most important influences on the development of

direct cinema, primarily because of his observational style and detached point of view, which, when allied with the formal aspects of his work (objectivity, mobile camera, on-location sound, contrapuntal editing), characterized this new documentary movement as a whole. His approach also bears significance specifically for Canadian national cinema. The underlying sense of irony that permeates Macartney-Filgate’s films has been interpreted as an expression of colonialist attitudes and dialectical tensions inherent within Canadian cinema during this period: on the one hand, committed to the national culture constructed and institutionalized by the NFB, while on the other hand, turning on that same culture the critical, distant gaze of the disenfranchized and rebellious young filmmakers who chafed against its limitations. Over time, Macartney-Filgate’s frustration with his

fellow filmmakers’ increasing inclination toward more structured, dramatic films with a predetermined philosophical ‘‘hook,’’ led him to depart from the Candid Eye team and the National Film Board in 1960, to pursue his ideal of ‘‘film before essence.’’ During the next decade he was involved in numerous award-winning projects throughout the world, yet he remains unwilling to sell his work, or promote himself as a pioneering filmmaker. ‘‘Sometimes I think I’m merely a hewer of raw material, that I have an ability to just go out and pan for gold and get enough and

then it’s up to the refinery and the people who make the ingots and shape it, and sell it [and] wrap it . . .’’