Vision and Persistence: Twenty Years of the Ontario Film Institute


236 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88898-097-3
DDC 791.43'06'0713





Reviewed by Cam Tolton

Cam Tolton is a professor of French and Cinema Studies at the University
of Toronto.


The publication of this handy history of the Ontario Film Institute
could not be more timely. Appearing just as the Institute is entering an
important period of expansion, the book has the opportunity to look not
only backward at the ofi’s courageous past but also forward to its
imaginative future as “Cinémathиque Ontario,” in affiliation with
the Festival of Festivals. In fact, the title of the book’s first
section is “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow.”

Uhde, an instructor in Film Studies at the University of Waterloo,
applies his research skill in a thoroughly scholarly fashion. The result
is a volume enriched by proper documentation, including some fascinating
archival photographs of moments in the Institute’s history and stills
from its films. Furthermore, Uhde uses his professional knowledge of a
fundamental phenomenon in film theory and history, the filmgoer’s
“persistence of vision,” to arrive at the playful pun in the title.

The key figure in the ofi’s history is Gerald Pratley, the chief
mover and shaker from the ofi’s conception in the late 1960s to its
1990 move from its long-time location in the Ontario Science Centre to a
downtown office and library in the Warner Brothers building, complete
with screenings at the Backstage Theatre. Fittingly, 40 pages are
devoted to Pratley’s biography and to an interview with “the man
behind the ofi.”

The Pratley section is preceded by a critical appraisal of the ofi’s
accomplishments—and of its failures. The latter, which are not
numerous, lie in such areas as outreach programming, the Stratford Film
Festival, publishing, and film preservation, all of which were
frustrated by budget cutbacks.

The only section of the book that seems of questionable value is the
51-page list of all the feature films, as well as selected shorts,
programmed at the ofi between 1969 and 1988, which adds considerably to
the length of this relatively expensive publication. Indicating that
such material, also presented in summary statistics, is available in the
ofi’s own archives might have been sufficient. After all, this
book’s readers have already discovered first-hand—or will wish to,
thanks to this book—the treasures in Pratley’s incomparable legacy.


Uhde, Jan., “Vision and Persistence: Twenty Years of the Ontario Film Institute,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 19, 2024,