James MacSwain fonds

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James MacSwain fonds

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Reference code

MG 1 volumes 3528-3529; 1996-12; Photographs 1996-193.

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

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  • [ca. 1890]-[1994?], predominant 1982-[1994?] (Creation)
    MacSwain, James, 1945-

Physical description area

Physical description

25 film reels and other material

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Name of creator


Biographical history

James MacSwain, Halifax-based filmmaker, was born at Amherst, N.S. in 1945. In 1969 he received his BA in English from Mount Allison University, studied for two years at the University of Alberta at Edmonton, and then spent a year in Ireland. Following his return to Canada in 1972, MacSwain worked as an actor in CBC radio and television and numerous Nova Scotian theatre companies including Neptune Theatre. From 1974 until 1978 he was artistic director of the Gargoyle Puppet Troupe and worked as project manager for a number of puppet and live drama troupes. He also wrote poetry and plays for radio. In 1979 he made his first experimental film, Kiss. By 1990 he had made eleven short films, many of which were supported by the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative and Doomsday Studios, Halifax. In 1989 he began working for the Canadian Filmmaker's Distribution Centre (Toronto) as education film officer. MacSwain's film work in Ontario included a satire for the AIDS Cable Project and Mathilda, a short film combining documentary footage, animation and live drama. In 1993 MacSwain was a winter resident at the Banff Centre for Fine Arts where he participated in the "Second Decade" AIDS awareness project. He was a co-founder of Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Atlantic (later Atlantic Independent Media).

Custodial history

Scope and content

Fonds consists of material relating to MacSwain's work as a filmmaker, including release prints of several of his films (Super 8 and 16 mm), as well as roll negs, answer prints, work prints, and video masters. Fifteen of MacSwain's productions are represented, the majority of which are short experimental or documentary films dealing with topics such as homosexuality, the AIDS epidemic, nuclear waste disposal, and war. Also included are soundtracks and narrations, and photographs (negatives, prints, contact sheets, ca. 1890-1992, predominant 1982-1992) of stills used in his films and supporting images, both originals and copies. Fonds also contains supporting textual records, such as scripts, correspondence, story boards, note books, financial documents, promotional materials, and research material, such as photocopied magazine articles and historical documents.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Donated by MacSwain in 1996.


Language of material

Script of material

Location of originals

Textual records: MG 1, vol. 3528-3529 and Film and sound: 1996-12 and Graphic material: 1996-193.

Availability of other formats

Restrictions on access

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Open for consultation; written permission required from the donor for use or reproduction until 2016.

Finding aids

Item level descriptions and shelf lists available for sound and moving image materials. File lists for photographs and textual records also available. File list available.

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Physical description

Includes 337 photographs (281 b&w negs, 40 b&w prints, 12 contact sheets, 2 cabinet cards, 2 handbills), 15 videocassettes (VHS, U-Matic, Betacam SP), 9 audio reels, and 35 cm of textual records.

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