Gordon Parks, Ingrid Bergman at Stromboli, Stromboli, Italy, 1949

Gordon Parks, Ingrid Bergman at Stromboli, Stromboli, Italy, 1949. Courtesy of The Gordon Parks Foundation / © Gordon Parks and The Gordon Parks Foundation.

Talks & Panels

Noah Cowan: It’s Really Hard to Watch Films Properly

This multimedia talk appraises film’s inherent “efficiency” as an editioned art form with an eye towards directorial intent, distribution channels, and other conditions of film screenings.

Film is intended to be the most “efficient” of editioned art forms. Thousands of “identical copies” are made available across multiple platforms, all of which are meant to re-present the same experience with the artwork. Of course, the reality is more complicated. Filmmakers create their films in a deliberate way, for a particular environment, and to affect an audience in a highly-determined manner. The rise of direct-to-consumer streaming platforms and the ubiquity of mobile devices drastically varies the current experience of watching films. In this multimedia lecture with film clips, former SFFILM Executive Director Noah Cowan breezes through the history of cinema with an eye to authors’ intents and how the medium’s “editioning” process has supported and thwarted their desires.

This guest lecture is presented in conjunction with McEvoy Arts’ summer exhibition What is an edition, anyway? which explores the traditions, conditions, and inventive expressions of the contemporary artist’s multiple.


Noah Cowan is the former Executive Director of SFFILM, following roles as the Artistic Director of TIFF Bell Lightbox and the Co-Director of the Toronto International Film Festival. Cowan also co-founded the pioneering distribution company Cowboy Pictures as well as Global Film Initiative, a non-profit funder and educational distributor. He is the Executive Producer of Jem Cohen’s Benjamin Smoke and the co-curator of multiple exhibitions, including David Cronenberg: Evolution and Transformation.