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Canadian Educational, Sponsored, and Industrial Film (CESIF) Project

Educational, sponsored, and industrial film has been by far the most active area of filmmaking in Canada. It was, and continues to be, a thriving cultural and industrial sector for private film concerns. The number of films produced is in the tens of thousands, and the number of production companies is in the multiple hundreds. Many of these films circulated to international markets, and the audiences, though difficult to measure, often matched or surpassed those for theatrical film.

Many areas of Canadian moving image heritage are victims of neglect. But none is as extreme as the neglect experienced by industrial, educational, and sponsored film. These non-fiction films even tend to fall out of the attention of documentary film historians. Indeed, there is so little written about these films, and no coordinated efforts to preserve these artifacts, that they hardly figure in the standard histories of Canadian moving image culture. Moreover, when they are discussed, it is the publicly funded films that receive the lion’s share of attention (most famously, those of the National Film Board of Canada).

This project, based in Communication Studies at Concordia University (Montreal), is an effort to put these films into the historical record. Needless to say, this is significant not only for Canadian cultural history, and as a documentation of the visual culture of the country; it is also essential to historians working on industrial, educational, and scientific institutions. In other words, this project will produce an indispensable research resource of national significance. Additionally, the turn to consider industrial, educational, and sponsored films is an internationally significant research trend, with major projects currently underway (e.g., the British Film Institute’s Colonial Film Project and NYU’s Orphan Films group), in which Canadian film research needs to participate.

A first step in coordinating research on Canadian industrial, educational, and sponsored film is the construction of this on-line database, beginning with film titles and expanding to production companies in the future. Using available on-line catalogues, the CESIF research team has scoured film libraries and archives across the country, identifying titles produced by, or co-produced with, private Canadian film companies. Entries include such information as film credits, subject matter, and holding institutions.

Many holding institutions have been in the process of discarding film prints, and, as most before the 1970s were never transferred to videotape, this means they are in danger of being lost completely. This research will provide a powerful argument for the work that archivists and preservationists do to select and maintain materials significant to the historical record. The Canadian Educational, Sponsored, and Industrial Film project is an effort to assure the full accounting of our audiovisual heritage.

CESIF Research Team

Charles Acland, Distinguished University Research Professor, Communication Studies, Concordia University,

Louis Pelletier, Media History Research Center, Concordia University, and University of Montreal,

CESIF research team:
Hannah Spaulding, University of Lincoln
Philipp Dominik Keidl, Goethe University
Kyla Smith, Concordia University
Prakash Krishnan, Concordia University

CESIF research and database construction, previous:
Brian Fauteux, Danielle Devereaux, Zach Melzer, Nina Nielsen, Farah Atoui, Keltie Robertson, Caroline Martel, Marian Rebeiro

CESIF website and database design:
Corina MacDonald
Antonia Hernandez, Paul Filipiuk, Jeff Traynor


Archive/Counter-Archive (local co-PIs Charles Acland and Monika Kin Gagnon, Concordia University; Partnership Grant PI, Janine Marchessault, York University)

Concordia University Research Chair in Communication Studies Fund
Social Science and Humanities Research Council
Advanced Research Team in History and Epistemology of Moving Image Studies (ARTHEMIS)