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Staff Picks 2014: discover a batch of hidden gems in our collection

Films

It’s that time of year again! Our team is going to recommend some of their faves to you, dear readers. Want to know what we chose last year? Check out our previous picks here.

This year, we decided to go for something a little different: we’re recommending our personal favourite hidden gemsyou know, those films nobody may have ever heard of, but the ones we think are diamonds in the rough. You won’t find The Cat Came Back here… read on for some great discoveries!

Emilie Nguyen (French Web Writer): The Impossible Map

Trust me, it’s impossible to not be blown away by Evelyn Lambart’s geographical gem of an animation. Just how does one accurately draw the globe on two dimensional paper? Flatten it with a rolling pin? Probably not a great idea. Peel it and lay the strips out flat? Getting warmer… With only a turnip and a grapefruit at her disposal, Lambart lays out the challenges of modern cartography in a way people of all ages can easily understand. I’ve seen the film 3 times and still can’t get enough!

Kate Ruscito (English Community Manager): Sick

As a recent member of the ‘Knittaz 4 Life’ club, I gotta tell ya: knittin’ ain’t easy. In fact, it blows me away that Hothouse alum Candace Couse managed to knit an entire cardiovascular system in 12 weeks, and then animate it. Couse’s final product is not only entertaining and beautifully weaved, but also gives you a delightful crash course on the wonders of the human body as it fights off a pesky infection.

Marc St-Pierre (French Collection Curator):  Backyard Theatre

Originally shown in French, this short film belongs to the Adieu Alouette series that was produced by the NFB’s English Program after the events of the October Crisis to improve Quebec’s global image. The film is from the point-of-view of a young Quebec dramaturge, Michel Tremblay, and his director, André Brassard. You need to watch for Brassard-Tremblay’s special interviews in English and the improvisations of the actors of the Belles-sœurs and the Demain matin, Montréal m’attend troupes!

Antoine Leduc (French Community Manager): Françoise Durocher, waitress

(*Note: this film is available in French only.)

I only discovered this film by André Brassard last year, and I honestly should have known about it sooner. It’s a great film about Quebec, carried by the words of Michel Tremblay, who hasn’t aged a bit.

A smoked meat sandwich with bacon, pickles, and mustard; one coffee, two creams; two clubs, two clubs…this sentence now follows me around like an ear worm!

Albert Ohayon (English Collection Curator): Wet Earth and Warm People

My hidden gem is Michael Rubbo’s documentary Wet Earth and Warm People, a fascinating look at modern day Indonesia (circa 1971). Rubbo appears in the film and interacts with various people he meets along the way including the Chief of the National Police (a man who keeps orangutans in his home!) and a pedicab driver who gives tours of Djakarta to foreign businessmen. What makes this film so interesting is that Rubbo allows the story to develop as it goes along. He is willing to follow a person until it leads him and the film crew to new adventures. Throughout, you can almost feel the oppressive heat and humidity of Indonesia but the central focus remains the colourful people who interact with the film crew. As Rubbo so aptly observes, “Indonesia is sort of like watching a snake shedding skins.” A thoughtful, rich, and multi-layered documentary, not to be missed.

Maxime Monast (Publication and Online Presence): Sad Song of Yellow Skin

Foreign and shell shocked, 3 American journalists are faced with the harsh reality of a Vietnam torn by war. However, the film does not have violence at its core. As life carries on, Michael Rubbo’s portrait is one of an outsider focusing on the daily struggles of a nation in reconstruction. Sometimes difficult, like all truths, Sad Song of Yellow Skin is an eye opener and a one-of-kind through-the-looking-glass experience.

Julie Matlin (Head of Social Media): Paperland: The Bureaucrat Observed

The tongue-in-cheek concept for this film, combined with Donald Brittain’s brilliant narration, will resonate with anyone who’s ever had to deal with bureaucracy – whether from the inside or the outside. Modelled after an episode of shows like Wild Kingdom, this film studies the public servant in his natural environment all around the world, from Canada to the Vatican to the Virgin Islands. Easily one of the funniest documentaries you’ve never seen.

Catherine Benoit (Collection Curator): Git Gob

It’s impossible to watch Git Gob, an absurdist Hothouse animation, without laughing hysterically. I recommend watching it while you’re at work on a Friday afternoon, surrounded by your tired colleagues. It’s guaranteed delirium.

Jovana Jankovic (English Web Writer): Runner

This captivating film begins as though it’s a simple by-the-numbers portrait of a young athlete in rigorous training. But as champion long-distance runner Bruce Kidd takes off on his sprightly feet, the camera that tracks him takes on an absolutely hypnotic and mesmerizing stance. His churning legs in close-up, Kidd doesn’t seem to ever be able to stop running, and the camera lovingly details his regimen and his achievements in a sublime meditation on the awesome power of the human body. The poetic commentary composed and spoken by the great Anglo-American poet W.H. Auden adds to the film’s dreamlike quality. For me, this film is one of those great works of art that testify to the unique powers of its particular medium.

Carolyne Weldon (English Web Writer): The Hoarder

Oh how thrilled I was to find three Evelyn Lambart films had been added to NFB.ca during my maternity leave! The Hoarder (my favourite of the bunch so far) tells the story of a grabby little bird with a big hoarding problem. Made in Lambart’s slick and colourful paper cutout style, the film is a seasonal reminder that sharing is caring and that avarice can suck the light right out of the world – literally.

We hope you enjoy our end-of-year staff picks! From our team to you and your loved ones, we wish you a holiday season full of sensational cinephilia.