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North of Superior

North of Superior
Directed byGraeme Ferguson
Produced byGraeme Ferguson
CinematographyGraeme Ferguson
Edited byToni Trow
Release date
January 1, 1971 (Canada)
Running time
18 minutes

North of Superior is a 1971 Canadian IMAX film directed by Graeme Ferguson. It is a travelogue of the area of Ontario, north of Lake Superior. It was commissioned for the then-new Ontario Place and was one of the first IMAX films made.

Designed to show off the large size screen and detail of IMAX images, the film continues to be shown in IMAX festivals, and has been exhibited internationally.[1] It used extensive flying scenes that provide an in-flight effect that would become widely imitated in future IMAX films.[2][3]


The film depicts scenes of life in the "North of Superior" area, including fighting forest fires and the work of reforestation afterwards. It also shows the varied geography of the region with numerous aerial shots. The film is 18 minutes long, the length of time a single IMAX reel could hold at the time.[2]

The film used aerial shots while flying over Lake Superior and Ouimet Canyon. The film begins with an aerial shot of flying over water, displayed on a small sub-section of the screen. After a few seconds, the image expands to the full six-storey height of the IMAX screen.[1] The aerial shot, along with the large IMAX screen, induced the "Kinesthetic effect" which meant that viewers would experience the flying sensation due to eye perception over-ruling the inner ear balance.[4] Viewers were warned to close their eyes if they experienced any discomfort.


The film was commissioned for the new Cinesphere, the new and first IMAX theatre that opened at Ontario Place in 1971.[5][6] The film, the first official IMAX film,[2] cost CDN$270,000 to produce.[2] It was produced and directed by the founders of IMAX Corporation, then known as Multiscreen Corporation: Roman Kroitor, Graeme Ferguson, Robert Kerr, and Bill Shaw.[7] As it was one of the first IMAX films, production equipment was invented for the production. One of the cameras used was held together by duct tape. Mounting equipment for the helicopters used in the film had to be custom-made.[1]

In its initial run during the Ontario Place season of 1971, over 1.1 million people viewed the film.[8] The film repeatedly returned to Cinesphere and was one of the last films shown (on the original IMAX projector) at Cinesphere in December 2011, after which Cinesphere and Ontario Place closed for a future redevelopment.[9] As part of the Infuture art festival held at Ontario Place in September 2016, the film was shown again at the Cinesphere. It is considered the most widely seen Canadian IMAX film.[10][11] As part of the Toronto International Film Festival, a pristine 70mm IMAX print of the film was presented yet again at Cinesphere on a newly installed screen. Graeme Ferguson was present for the screening, as was the film's editor, Toni Trow.[12]


Singer/songwriter Bill Houston composed the original song Ojibway Country for the film.[13] The score is credited to Zal Yanovsky.[14]

Thunder Bay native Paul Shaffer, later a well known performer, appears briefly in one scene playing an organ at an outdoor wedding.[15]


  1. ^ a b c Stradiotto, Laura. "Imax festival shines a light". Sudbury Star. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d North of Superior. Canadian Film Encyclopedia.
  3. ^ Wyse, Wyndham (2001). Take One's Essential Guide to Canadian Film. University of Toronto Press. p. 154.
  4. ^ "The Man Who Invented IMAX: An Interview with Graeme Ferguson csc". Canadian society of cinematographers. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  5. ^ Aitken, Ian, ed. (2011). The Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of the Documentary Film. Routledge. p. 131.
  6. ^ "Cinesphere - The worlds first permanent Imax film theatre". Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  7. ^ "The Birth of IMAX". IEEE. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  8. ^ "Imax projector, big screen break into North American market". Financial Post. February 10, 1973. p. 18.
  9. ^ "Cinesphere to go 3D". Toronto Star. January 7, 2011.
  10. ^ "Big Movie Zone -- North of Superior". Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  11. ^ "North of Superior". IMAX. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  12. ^ []
  13. ^ CBC Bio
  14. ^
  15. ^ []

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