Isis Women and Film, a women’s media production and distribution centre, operated in Vancouver from 1973 to 1977. Inspired by 70s second wave feminism, the founders chose Isis, the ancient goddess of life, as a woman-positive symbol for their organization.
Having previously worked with Metro Media (community-based social activist media), the founders were galvanized by the 1973 International Women and Film Festival that toured eighteen cities across Canada to an overwhelmingly positive response. Women were encouraged and motivated by the creative force of women in the history of visual media and felt supported when they watched films that reflected some of their own struggles.
It became clear from the enthusiasm coming from rural communities that women audiences in outlying areas were eager for similar events. Isis Women and Film stepped up to meet this demand.
In the fall of 1974, Isis organized a provincial women’s film and art festival: a tour of rural towns throughout BC. The Isis women travelled from town to town in a large van loaned by a car dealership. “In keeping with Women and Film’s ideology of collectivism, each town had its own organization and contributed to their festival”(1). The tour included films, videotapes, slideshows, a women’s art exhibit, books, and puppets. The festivals were a great success.
After the tour, members of the Isis collective continued working together. They created video and slide/sound productions, provided a darkroom and taught photographic skills to women, and became a busy women’s media distribution centre to Vancouver and rural communities throughout BC. Isis lost its funding in 1976 after the Social Credit provincial government was elected. The women said goodbye to the centre and distribution was discontinued (2). They forged ahead, however, working from their homes as a media production group for a few more years, notably producing a film titled Emigranté about racism in Canada.
The founding members of Isis Women and Film were Moira Simpson, Liz Walker, Mary Jane Cowan, Barbara Etches, and Ann Bishop. Other members joining after the initial tour included Marian Penner Bancroft, Leigh Deering, and Barbara Tranter.
1. Essay by Marusya Bociurkiw on early feminist media groups including Reelfeelings and Isis Women and Film.
2. In 1976, the Douglas College Library acquired the Isis collection for circulation.
Isis Women and Film Documents
|Isis Is||1974||British Columbia|
|Isis: B.C. Women Artists Catalogue – 1974||1974||British Columbia|
|Isis: Distribution and Production Pamphlet – 1975||1975||British Columbia|
|Isis: EMIGRANTE Flyer – 1979||1979||British Columbia|
|Isis: Festival Tour Catalogue – 1974||1974||British Columbia|
|Isis: Interlock Chapter – Goddess of Life Show||1975||British Columbia|
|Isis: Letter from Margaret Trudeau – 1977||1977||British Columbia|
|Isis: Women’s Media 1976 Catalogue||1976||British Columbia|