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Remembering Michael Wallin

Posted January 21st, 2016 in News / Events

We are deeply saddened by the passing of longtime Bay Area resident and filmmaker Michael Wallin. He is a key figure in Canyon Cinema’s history having served as manager and then as a board member during 1970s through 1990s.  To honor his memory and contributions to the experimental film community both locally and beyond Canyon is planning a special tribute to him in our next issue of Confessions.  We invite all those who have memories to share to e-mail them to (noting Michael Wallin in the subject) by Wednesday, February 10. These can either come as words, pictures, clippings, etc.


Our first two contributions come from former Canyon Cinema Inc. Director, Dominic Angerame, and founder Bruce Baillie.


Wallin_Angerame_clip“It is with great sadness that I heard of the death of Michael Wallin during the first week of January 2016.

I was in a state of shock because I had just spoken with Michael right after Christmas. His mentor Bruce Baillie (Founding Father of Canyon Cinema) was coming to the Bay Area later in January and Michael was to pick him up at the airport. We talked about logistics of transporting Bruce from the airport and to Berkeley. We also spent a good length of time on the phone catching up with each others’ lives since it  had been a while since we had spoken. Michael sounded well, positive and happy to see Bruce Baillie.

I first met Michael Wallin in 1980 when I was hired to be co-manager of Canyon Cinema with him. Michael had been working at Canyon since 1978 along with two other employees. Two of them were leaving so Michael and myself were to be co-managers. Michael and myself had a meeting and together we were able to restructure the operations, expand hours, increase salaries and basically laid a foundation for which Canyon Cinema would model itself for the next 30 years. Michael Wallin was instrumental in introducing me many of the filmmakers of Canyon Cinema and the filmmakers of San Francisco. I had just moved from Chicago and was not familiar the film scene here in San Francisco at that time.

Michael also defended my position at Canyon Cinema many times. I will never forget the time when I was first hired, a filmmaker walked into the office where Michael introduced me. The filmmaker as me if I was gay and I stated  “no”. The filmmaker then asked Michael how could he hire a non gay employee. I never saw Michael become any angrier. He ended up throwing the filmmaker out the door and apologized to me for his behavior. It was then and there that I knew Michael was an honest and fair man and would have my back.

Michael and myself work together for more than 7 years having very few arguments or difficulties. We published a supplement to the catalog number 4 which led the way to us raising money to publish a major catalog in 1981. Catalog #5 was instrumental in having Canyon Cinema brought to the limelight as a dependable distributor of avant-garde cinema and increased business tremendously. Together we were interviewed in the San Francisco Chronicle talking about the success of Canyon and the organization’s profile was expanding. This was one of very few articles written about the benefits of  Canyon Cinema.

Michael wanted to pursue his education and career in psychology he left Canyon Cinema in 1987, however he continued to sit as a member of the Canyon Board of Directors for many years supporting ideas that would allow Canyon Cinema to expand even further. He was a member of the board for the San Francisco Cinematheque and remained committed to the avant-garde community for many years.

As a filmmaker Michael Wallin had produced the filmography of more than 10 works all of them in distribution through Canyon Cinema. Some of my favorite films of his include: Monitoring the Unstable Earth; Fearful Symmetry; Along the Way and his world famous film “Decodings”. Michael Wallin’s film The Place Between Our Bodies is a sincere, honest film dealing with homosexual acts between his boyfriend and himself. Quite a revealing and revolutionary film for its time.

Michael taught Cinema Studies at the San Francisco Art Institute and San Francisco State University and pursued his passion and profession as a psychologist.

I will miss Michael for his fairness, his ability to be ability to understand the complexities of the human nature as well as his ability to be fair in matters that were sometimes extremely challenging. Michael was a man of the spirit and I recognized that the minute I met him in my interview back in 1980. His eyes had that inner glow and depth of understanding. He will certainly be missed by all of us who knew him and loved  him.”

– Dominic Angerame, Filmmaker; Former Director, Canyon Cinema, Inc.; Cinema Studies Professor.


“M. I met in 60’s Mendocino, I think he was attending a camp or somesuch related to film.   I was I think filming Paul Tulley  – “Have You Thought of Talking to the Director?”, poss. my first visit to Mendo area.   We became closer thru the years  – I recall some of his films – vhs copies in library here.  We eventually inducted M. into our family as honorary ‘son’.

On one SF visit M ordered a special Cambodian dinner for me, which went awry when the chronic fatigue struck an extra heavy blow and I had unfortunately to ‘disappear’.    

He was awaiting our visit end of this January month.”    –   bb & family

Michael Wallin films at Canyon Cinema

Black Sheep Boy (1995)

Decodings (1988)

Along the Way (1983)

Fearful Symmetry (1981)

Greed, or Buffalo Baba (1980)

Monitoring the Unstable Earth (1980)

Place Between our Bodies, The (1975)

As The Wheel Turns (1973)

Sleepwalk (1973)

Kali’s Revue (1972)

Mendocino (1968)