Archives of experimental filmmaker Bruce Baillie now in Stanford University Libraries

Bruce Baillie

Two years ago, Stanford University Libraries acquired the archives for Canyon Cinema, one of the leading distributors of avant-garde independent films. Now it also has the archives of Canyon founder BRUCE BAILLIE, a major figure in the development of counter-cultural filmmaking in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Baillie’s films been described as “poetic documentary.” The archives, which document Baillie’s life and work as a filmmaker, strongly reinforce Stanford’s focus on independent, alternative and documentary films and filmmakers. The collection of papers, correspondence, notes, files and other materials will be housed in the libraries’ Department of Special Collections, where it will be permanently preserved and made available to researchers.

“Baillie’s work addresses the impact of experimental filmmaking on techniques and styles that permeate all forms of cinema,” said HENRY LOWOOD, curator for film and media collections.

Baillie, who turns 81 this month, founded Canyon Cinema in 1961, when he started showing new films in his backyard in Canyon, Calif. Canyon became the world’s leading collective of independent filmmakers after its humble beginnings. Later, Baillie also co-founded the San Francisco Cinemathèque with experimental filmmaker CHICK STRAND.

From Baillie's 1961 film "Mr. Hayashi"

One of Baillie’s films, Castro Street (1966), was added to the National Film Registry in 1992. The Registry selects films for the Library of Congress that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.” That film documents the sights and sounds on the city of Richmond’s Castro Street, which runs by the Standard Oil Refinery. Other Baillie films document street life in San Francisco, the life and rituals of Native Americans, people Baillie encountered and other topics drawn from his varied interests and observations.

The new collection includes copies of the original notebooks for Castro Street (the originals have been lost), written as Baillie was editing film at the Morning Star Ranch in Santa Rosa. He scribbled in the notebooks by flashlight after what he calls the “singularly complicated editing process, in my homemade tent under the stars with my dog, Mama.”
—Cynthia Haven, Stanford University Libraries