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Founding of the Independent Film-Makers' Association

According to Al Rees, the formation of the Independent Film-Maker's Association (IFA) in the mid-70s was 'timely, but only just': uniting radical film-makers across Britain in the years between those which saw the 'visible dissolving of the political moment of the 60s … and the soon to be visible ascendancy of the right which under Thatcher and Reagan dominated the [80s.]'

Independent film culture in Britain in the early '70s was one characterised by a certain heterogeneity. However, amidst this apparent lack of cohesion, ideas of subversion, opposition and autonomy provided a bond that would enable independent filmmakers to join together, albeit at times rather uncomfortably, to form a collective front.

The most important of these attempts at solidarity came in 1974 with the founding of the IFA by a number of filmmakers disgruntled at the way in which their work had been mistreated by the BBC (for a programme intended to showcase Britain's 'vibrant' independent film culture). The IFA's initial motive was to represent-as-one the interests of its members against those monopolies within the mainstream that had for too long 'dictated the means of production and distribution'. The energetically militant tone of the IFA's early years are captured by a 'discussion paper' presented in 1976, concluding with a series of manifesto-like observations that:

  1. the struggle for the rights of an independent film culture to exist includes all those who are involved in producing film meaning – that is, it not only involves independent film producers but also distributors, exhibitors, film teachers, critical workers and film technicians;
  2. our struggle is both an economic one and a cultural one – economic in the sense that it has to demand an increase in state sponsorship for the making and distribution and exhibition of films, cultural in that it has to fight the isolation that independent film-making can all too easily be forced to accept, and must transform all aspects of dominant film practice;
  3. it has to fight for the right of access in both film production and exhibition for those who have neither.

The IFA would continue along its bombastic path, providing a vital space for practice and debate despite erratic membership figures, internal conflicts, and a growing dependency on external funding. However by 1990 the IFVA (as it had been re-titled following its merger with the Independent Video Association in 1983) would finally meet its Waterloo. The financial lifeline provided by the British Film Institute was finally withdrawn. Thus the curtain was eventually drawn on what is surely one of the most ambitious and significant chapters in the history of British independent film.

Russell Hedges

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Peter Gidal, co-founder of the Independent Film-Makers' Association

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