La Vie polaire/Polar Life, an inventive multi-screen Expo 67 installation,
is reborn at the Cinémathèque québécoise
Polar Life is a film directed by Graeme Ferguson who, together with Roman Kroitor and others, invented the IMAX system that would later be showcased at the 1970 Osaka World Expo. Originally screened at the Man the Explorer pavilion, Polar Life can be understood as an experimental precursor to the panoramic spatial complexity of IMAX films.
The digital restauration of the original film was directed by Munro Ferguson, project manager. The immersive digital installation recreates the pioneering audiovisual experience of the film, Polar Life. Using advanced digital technology, a 90-degree curved screen (100% of the original visual field) and three high-definition digital projectors, the film’s digitally restored images move across 11 virtual screens that horizontally pan across the physical screen to simulate the visual experience that audiences had in 1967.
The project is the result of a partnership involving the Cinémathèque québécoise (where the original film deposited by the City of Montreal is held under the direction of Jean Gagnon, Director of Preservation and Access to Collections); Concordia and York universities via the CINEMAexpo67 research group headed by Monika Kin Gagnon, who is the installation’s curator; and the NFB, which carried out the restoration and 4K digitizing of original footage from the film. The NFB also handled the installation’s technical direction. The project was supervised by James Roberts, Assistant Director, Accessibility and Digital Enterprises, Claude Brien, Director, Technical Resources, and René Chénier, Executive Producer, all from the NFB.