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Photo Friday | Filming with Montreal’s Urban Poor in the 1960s

The NFB was always cutting-edge.

Between 1967 and 1980, its activist documentary program Challenge for Change produced almost 250 films and videos to confront a wide spectrum of issues, from poverty to sexism to marginalization.

Coming into and working with low-income communities, the program used video recordings and closed circuit television to stimulate social debate and action. Among the first to exploit portable video, its filmmakers worked alongside all sorts of groups, ranging from Black students, to fishermen, to schoolchildren.

Montreal’s Pointe Saint-Charles neighbourhood was one of these hard-hit communities.  There, children from Lorne Elementary School were introduced to the Challenge for Change methods in 1968. What happens when kids are given a free hand to make their own films?

Check out these rare pics of a tough neighbourhood in flux. (All images are presented with their original caption.)

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View of littered sidewalks in the slums of a Canadian city.

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An elderly man drags wooden planks with a small cart in the streets of a poor Canadian neighbourhood.

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A young boy hides behind a house in a backyard of a deprived Canadian neighbourhood.

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Children play in a backyard of a poor Canadian neighbourhood next to drying clothes on a clothesline.

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A young boy plays with a toy gun in a backyard of a deprived Canadian neighourhood.

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Three children stand in the doorway of a shack-like home in the slums of a Canadian city.

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Children stand on the backyard staircase of a rundown tenement building in the slum neighbourhood of a Canadian city.

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Exterior view of the Lorne Elementary School in Pointe-Saint-Charles.

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Pictured: [NFB commissioner] Jacques Bensimon. 

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A schoolteacher looks over one of her pupils as he becomes familiar with the handling of a filmstrip projector in a classroom of the Lorne Elementary School in Pointe-Saint-Charles, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, May 1968.

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A male teacher helps a young boy researching a film topic through NFB filing cards in a classroom of the Lorne Elementary School in Pointe-Saint-Charles.

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A young boy looks at the images projected by the filmstrip projector that he is operating in a classroom of the Lorne Elementary School in Pointe-Saint-Charles.

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A male teacher helps a young girl operating a filmstrip projector in a classroom of the Lorne Elementary School in Pointe-Saint-Charles.

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A young girl looks at the images projected by the filmstrip projector she is operating in a classroom of the Lorne Elementary School in Pointe-Saint-Charles, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, May 1968.

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Header image: A young girl with scissors in her hands, sits on a littered sidewalk in front of a house in the slum neighbourhood of a Canadian city.