Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

“In the best interests of the country”: the American film institute and philanthropic support for American experimental and independent cinema in the 1960s

Ramirez, Gracia


Gracia Ramirez


In the mid-1960s and early 1970s, experimental and independent cinema received a considerable amount of support from the U.S. federal government through the American Film Institute (AFI), and from private philanthropies and arts institutions such as the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). These measures appeared at a moment when the theatrical film industry was reorganising its industrial model and its main trade organisation, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), was revising its moral standards. Only recently scholars have started historiographical research on experimental cinema’s connection with arts and academic infrastructures, yet they have not paid similar attention to the FI’s support for experimental and independent cinema production. Thus, they have failed to explain experimental and independent cinema’s complex relationship with both the theatrical film industry and philanthropic enterprises during that period.
In this project I address these connections through archival research on the FI’s experimental and independent film production fund, the Independent Filmmaker Program (IFP), relating this measure to other distribution and exhibition policies. I locate the origins of these policies in pre-WWII federal government’s and RF’s film education and propaganda programmes. Then I further contextualise the measures within the wider international state of the film industry between 1945 and 1974. Thus I argue that the policies advanced in the 1960s engaged with some of the demands of experimental and independent filmmakers and critics for freer personal expression and more flexible modes of film production. At the same time, these policies contributed to expand non-theatrical film production and update film education in line with the interests of the main theatrical film industry. This study contributes to understand a key moment in American film history considering both the relationship between the U.S. federal government, private philanthropies and the MPAA, and between institutions and filmmakers.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Aug 26, 2013
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords Cinema; experimental film; independent filmmakers; American film industry; philanthropy;
Public URL
Contract Date Aug 26, 2013
Award Date 2013-04


Downloadable Citations