May 26, 2011

70mm Frames from "Ontario" Osaka Expo 70'

For the 70mm film junkies here is a rare look at the Expo 70' film "Ontario" directed by Christopher Chapman. The film was later shortened for the opening of Ontario Place and renamed "Festival" which we played at last years 70mm festival.

Ontario, 1970, 26mins, 70mm 5-perf, 6-track mag (though apparently at the Expo 70' screening it ran 12 track, 6 tracks on the the film, an six more running interlock on fullcoat mag.

An interview segment with Chris Chapman about the film.

This abridged interview, recorded in 1989 and transcribed by Patricia Thompson, the late editor of Film Canada Yearbook, was conducted by Gerald Pratley, then head of the Ontario Film Institute. It was edited by Risa Shuman and Gerald Pratley, with additional material by Christopher and Francis Chapman and Wyndham Wise, 2010. © Ontario Film Institute

GP How did your film for Expo 70, in Osaka, Japan, come about?

CC I was in Los Angeles working on The Happy Time when James Ramsay came down and persuaded me to come back to Toronto to do an Ontario film for Expo 70 in Japan. I knew in a sense that I was asking for trouble; but I was keen to communicate to Oriental audiences because I felt there was something in the relationship between nature and man, and work and play, which was universal. I felt I would like to try this again.

GP You didn't want to repeat yourself. You didn't want another 'Ontari-ari-ario.'

CC No! Actually, I was thinking lyrically; I wanted to take big pan shots and move them slowly across the screen. And I went out and did this. It was not going to be A Place to Stand and it wasn't going to be music from one end to the other. I wanted to take pieces of a music camp up north, or a June Mardi Gras in Ottawa, or the calliope in Western Ontario - all this things that gave it a spirit somewhat different from A Place to Stand. Bill McCauley was musical director and worked closely with me composing the linking music. I was asked to make a longer film, which was fatal; the crowds were just too big for anything longer. Francis joined me, and we called the film Festival.

The first thing James Ramsay from the ministry did at the initial screening in Toronto was to give out a questionnaire asking audiences to compare it to A Place to Stand, which just killed me. The whole idea of even trying to compare the two was the wrong way to go about it. Anyway, it obviously wasn't A Place to Stand, and was never intended to be. So it went to Japan - the longer version - [but] the Ontario Pavilion was an absolute disaster. And I was tied in with its program. There was a monumental multi-slide show that didn't work properly, and it was confused with my film. I went to Japan feeling very depressed after hearing all the bad publicity in Ontario, but in Japan I was greeted warmly and they said the film was an enormous success. The theatre was supposed to hold 650 people, but 1,200 were trying to get in. There were several items in the papers about the success of the film, and it raised my spirits somewhat. Some reviewers considered it one of the most Japanese of all the films at Expo. But despite the fact it won an award at Expo, the ministry considered the whole venture a failure and they didn't even announce the award.

GP And you've never been asked to make a film for Ontario since?

The closing flying shot going over and down Niagara Falls, filmed in 65mm
CC Oh, no, and it would be wrong for me to do another. There are great young talents who should be given a chance. But I will say this, Ontario Place was built and put up entirely as a result of the success of Expo 67. They had Cinesphere, but they weren't going to put in an IMAX screen. IMAX was nearly bankrupt. I convinced Ontario Place that an IMAX system should be included on the grounds that it is a very exciting new medium; it's Ontario, and it's going to be sold to the States if they don't adopt it. So they decided to install an IMAX projection system. In 1973 the new director of Ontario Place, Ian McLennan, asked me to do Toronto the Good, a multi-media show using 36 slide projectors in combination with 35-mm film, and I enjoyed working with Francis again. It was done in remarkably short time, and the possibilities were so exciting; the film part was going to be there all the time, but over the seasons we could change all the slides. They were designed for that purpose, so there was always something new. It did very well and there were some tremendously nice comments. 

For more of the interview go here