Clarke Mackey has worked as a director, cinematographer, editor, producer or writer on over 50 film, television and new media projects. Many have won awards and critical acclaim. His first feature film, The Only Thing You Know (1971), won two Canadian Film Awards (now called Genies) including the Best Actress award. This film is considered by many critics to be an important film in the early development of independent cinema in this country. His documentary A Right to Live (1977) is called “one of the key moments in the history of committed documentary in Canada” by Peter Steven in his book Brink of Reality: New Canadian Documentary Film and Video.
In the 1980s, Mackey directed several episodes of the Emmy Award-winning TV series Degrassi Jr. High. His second feature, Taking Care, won a Canadian Film and Television Association award as best feature and was nominated for the Best Actress Genie in 1987. “Target”, a pioneering project in digital interactive drama which Mackey directed, won him a Cindy award (Association of Visual Communicators, Los Angeles) in 1989. Dance on the Edge, Mackey’s third feature, an experimental documentary, premiered at the Figueira da Foz International Film Festival in Portugal in 1996. Critic Peter Harcourt called it “an impassioned record of a necessary search…a search for a new kind of cinema.” His innovative documentary website Memory Palace: Vernacular Culture in the Digital Age was nominated for a WebSage Streamers Award and was featured in Forbes magazine (1999).
For the past two decades Mackey has been focusing on digital video as a way to produce documentaries impossible to complete with large budgets. He worked without a crew or lights to produce an intimate profile of three very poor communities in Mexico called Disrobing the Emperor: The New Commons in Mexico (2000). Eyes in the Back of Your Head (2003) was made in collaboration with ex-federal inmates in Kingston, Ontario.
His book, published by Between the Lines Press in Toronto, is called Random Acts of Culture: Reclaiming Art and Community in the 21st Century (2010) is about the politics of culture. He co-produced the documentary Til The Cows Come Home (2014), a documentary about the citizens’ movement to stop the closure of the Frontenac Prison Farm in Kingston, Ontario. It has been screened widely and received positive critical response. His most recent movie is Revolution Begins at Home (2016) which tells the story of what happened when his mother, brother and sister enthusiastically embraced hard core Maoist political organizing. Through the story of his family and other activists, Mackey explores the political upheavals of the late 1960s in Canada and what lessons they might provide for today.