Labour, Art and Activism

Director Magnus Isacsson (on the right)

Cinema Politica releases the Magnus Isacsson Collection: a selection of key works by this important Canadian director touching on topics of labour, art, and activism.

Magnus Isacsson (1948-2012) was a deeply committed, indefatigable and famously generous documentary filmmaker whose creative output spans decades, subjects and topics. Isacsson was a central figure in the Canadian—and especially Montreal—doc community who consistently mentored younger, less experienced filmmakers in the art, craft and politics of socially-engaged documentary. His (now archived) blog remains a treasure trove of sage advice, such as his “five rules of thumb” to follow for a project to be worthwhile and fundable.

Some of us at Cinema Politica knew Magnus personally, as he was a fixture at Cinema Politica Concordia screenings on Monday nights, where on some occasions we screened the Swedish-born director’s own works. He was a skilled photographer with experience producing television before moving into non-fiction cinema. Magnus had an unwavering moral compass, and would not mince words when he thought a film had problematic ethics or politics. His commitment to documentary filmmaking manifested as Marc Glassman has noted, as a “way of life” and was equally matched by his dedication to the issues and people featured in his work – amounting to nearly twenty films in total.

We are therefore honoured to be releasing some key works and classics from this important Canadian director online, for the first time. From labour to natural resources, from Indigenous communities grappling with hydro dams to art activists provoking with “socially acceptable acts of terrorism,” from the Raging Grannies to a choir formed by homeless men –  Cinema Politica’s Magnus Isacsson Collection will engage and rouse audiences with tales of struggle, resistance, justice, art and activism. 

In a POV interview with Glassman, Magnus said: “I have always looked for dramatic stories, which bring up important social and political issues…and I’m looking to understand all the complexities.” We believe CP’s Magnus Isacsson Collection highlights some of the filmmaker’s best works: films that deftly explore complex issues with a keen sensitivity for both the poetics and the politics in a myriad of social issues entangled in the lives of people and communities. Long after Magnus would finish a film he would continue to nourish relationships forged during filmmaking – an ethically-minded relational practice of representation that is so often missing from adventures in documentary. We invite you to embark on your own adventure, through Magnus’s films, and hope you forge your own relationship with the films, the issues, the people and the communities forever commemorated in Magnus Isacsson’s commanding creations.