The Independent Filmmakers Association (IFA) was formed in London in 1974 to represent the various strands of predominantly leftist and experimental independent filmmaking in post-war Britain. For the next fifteen years, the IFA played a key role in the expansion of British independent film, lobbying the establishment for funding and recognition, and even securing its own department within the new Channel 4 upon its launch in 1982.
Four decades after the IFA was founded, the Radical Film Network was formed by a collection of artists, activists and academics (including ex-IFA members) involved in the resurgence of progressive and experimental film culture currently ongoing in the UK and elsewhere. Despite almost four decades between them, many of the questions and challenges facing the RFN today were addressed by those involved with the IFA. What constitutes oppositional film culture? How should a counter-cultural network be organised? What roles should different actors – filmmakers, academics, activists, the state – play within that culture?
Drawing on archival research, interviews and the growing body of contemporary scholarship engaged in ‘rediscovering’ 1970s independent film culture, this article situates these questions within a conceptual framework derived from various approaches to network theory found in cultural studies, social movement studies, organisational studies and management studies. In doing so, it offers fresh insight into the IFA’s legacy and the lessons it holds for those involved with the RFN. Moreover, the article demonstrates the importance of such network organisations and their crucial role in developing film cultures, and contributes a new methodology for their analysis.