Underground Film Journal

Owen Land

B&W photo of a young Owen Land with long hair

Owen Land, fka George Landow, was an American experimental filmmaker. One of the more confounding figures in the underground film scene, his personal history — such as his name change — is complex and borderline mysterious. He passed away on June 8, 2011.

Born in 1944 in New Haven, Connecticut, George Landow began his filmmaking career in high school with 2 films, including Faulty Pronoun Reference, Comparison and Punctuation of the Participle Phrase. By the late 1960s, he was studying art at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York.

In 1969, film scholar P. Adams Sitney included Landow in a group of emerging "Structuralist" filmmakers that included Tony Conrad, Paul Sharits, Joyce Wieland, Ernie Gehr and Michael Snow. Many of these filmmakers rejected this categorization; and in 1978, Landow himself said he considered himself an "experimental filmmaker." He also described the arc of his career at that point as having evolved from primarily visual concerns to more literary ones.

Land's early films, such as Film In Which There Appear Sprocket Holes, Edge Lettering, Dirt Particles, Etc. (1965-1966), consist solely of repetitive film loop optical printing; which then grew into more complex interactions between film and audience, such as Remedial Reading Comprehension (1971). He also described his work as being autobiographical and as being intentionally provocative.

Many references to his personal life include a fascination with religion, such as converting to Messianic Judaism in 1968. He also taught at a number of schools, including being a visiting faculty at Hampshire College in 1975 and teaching film production at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Northwestern University, San Francisco Art Institute, and Art Center College of Design, Pasadena California. (Years at each school unconfirmed as of this writing.)

Film curator Mark Webber, who was close to Land in his later years, says that Land "vanished" in 1999 and was thought to be dead. In truth, Land had suffered a debilitating stroke, but returned to filmmaking with Dialogues, with which he had an antagonistic relationship with his young Hollywood crew, documented in the film In the Land of Owen.

It was also sometime in the late 1970s that Landow changed his name to Owen Land. Most film texts refer to him as "George Landow," even after his name change, while online he can be found under both names. The circumstances surrounding his death are unknown as of this writing.

Watch Streaming Films By Owen Land:


Dialogues (2009)
On the Marriage Broker Joke as Cited by Sigmund Freud in Wit and Its Relation of the Unconscious, Or Can the Avant-Garde Artist be Wholed? (1979)
New Improved Institutional Quality: In the Environment of Liquids and Nasals a Parasitic Vowel Sometimes Develops (1976) (DVD)
Wide Angle Saxon (1976)
No Sir, Orison! (1975)
A Film of Their 1973 Spring Tour Commissioned by Christian World Liberation Front of Berkeley, California (1974)
Thank You Jesus for the Eternal Present (1973)
What’s Wrong With This Picture? (1972)
Remedial Reading Comprehension (1971) (WATCH)
Institutional Quality (1969)
The Film That Rises to the Surface of Clarified Butter (1968) (DVD)
Bardo Follies (1966)
Film in Which There Appear Sprocket Holes, Edge Lettering, Dirt Particles, Etc. (1965-66)
Not a Case of Lateral Displacement (1965)
Adjacent Yes, But Simultaneous (1965)
This Film Will Be Interrupted After 11 Minutes By a Commercial (1965)
The Leopard Skin (1964-65)
Fleming Faloon Screening (1963-64)
Fleming Faloon (1963-64)
Richard Kraft at the Playboy Club (1963)
Are Era (1962)


Robert Beck Memorial Cinema: January — May Screenings, 1999

Continuing into 1999 at the Collective Unconscious theater space in NYC, the RBMC — co-programmed by Brian L. Frye and Bradley Eros — went on hiatus for the first week of the year, but resumed on January 12. Below is a list of screenings from then until a May 18 event that celebrated the RBMC’s first full year of existence.

Idiolects #1 (June to August 1976)

In 1976, a crudely published fanzine devoted to the experimental film scene made its debut. It was called Idiolects and the first issue offered a definition of its name: “An idiolect is the language of an individual at a particular time.”

Robert Beck Memorial Cinema: 1998 Screenings

Brian L. Frye programmed the first screening on May 12, 1998 at the Collective Unconscious theater space. The screening included the feature-length documentary Underground by Emile de Antonio about the left-wing militant group the Weather Underground

Experimental Film Coalition: The Monthly Screenings

This is Part Two in a series about Chicago’s Experimental Film Coalition; and covers their screening series. Formed in 1983, the Experimental Film Coalition started holding regular monthly screenings starting in 1984. The screenings brought to Chicago the work of independent, experimental filmmakers across the country, as well as screening local work.