A Little Holiday Entertainment: Introducing the 2012 NFB Staff Picks

A Little Holiday Entertainment: Introducing the 2012 NFB Staff Picks

A Little Holiday Entertainment: Introducing the 2012 NFB Staff Picks

Another year has come and gone, bringing a fresh new load of films and interactive works. It was an especially productive year.

2012 saw the release of Stories We Tell, Last Chance, Bydlo, Kali The Little Vampire, Edmund Was A Donkey, Bear 71 and many more great stories.

On NFB.ca, meanwhile, newly digitized films were diligently being added to the site, at a pace of 3-4 a week. Since January, an additional 203 films made their grand online entry on NFB.ca. Of those, we all had our favourites. I asked everyone on the Dream Web team (and friends) to tell me about theirs. Here is what they came back with:

Julie Matlin, social media strategist

Meltdown, Carrie Mombourquette, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

“I have a soft spot for the films that come out of our Hothouse program. Every year, 6 young animators come together and produce 6 short films in under 3 months. That alone is amazing, but the fact that the films are really good just blows my mind. In every crop, there’s always one film that stands out for me, and this year it was Carrie Mombourquette’s Meltdown. The story, the humour, the look and feel – they all come together to create this incredibly delightful gem of a film. And she made it in 12 weeks! It would have taken me that long just to get the stripes on the referee’s sweater right.”

Munro Ferguson, animation

Nails, Phillip Borsos, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

“Nails is a wonderful example of a purely visual storytelling. I think the best documentaries have no narration. Nails has no words whatsoever. Beautifully shot and edited, this finely-crafted film was my first exposure to the talents of Phillip Borsos, who went on to direct The Grey Fox, one of the most loveable Canadian features ever made.”

Matthieu Stréliski, social media strategist

Zea, André Leduc & Jean-Jacques Leduc, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

“If many of our animation and documentary films are well-known classics, the NFB’s experimental films are a stockpile of fascinating material begging to be discovered. This year, I really appreciated Zea, a true technical tour de force. Over 5 minutes, the film follows the evolution of an unidentified substance. The camera poetically reveals this mysterious object’s true nature, thereby crafting a resounding cinematic metaphor.”

Catherine Perreault, web writer

The Cat in the Bag , Gilles Groulx, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

“There isn’t really a cat – nor a bag for that matter – in this brilliant Gilles Groulx movie, but there’s a girl and a guy, and love and politics. Through the coming of age of a 20-year-old man, this story, shot in black and white, symbolizes the political coming of age of the Québécois people. Shot in 1964, using direct cinema techniques, this great fiction film brings to mind the French “Nouvelle Vague” (it was shot around the same time), and makes me want to cut my hair into a bob every time I watch it. Strongly recommended.”

Michael Fukushima, producer

The Lump, John Weldon, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

“I’ve always had a soft spot for John Weldon‘s The Lump – partly because I have a small role in it (though it was a much much earlier me and therefore utterly unrecognizable now) – but partly because of just how brazen it is in so many ways. I mean, it’s so aesthetically unpleasant that it’s perversely attractive. Now that’s quite an achievement in a visual art. And the almost-heretical stop-mo techniques John developed in The Lump became his new form in later films like The Hungry Squid and beyond. Brazen. So typically John Weldon.”

Albert Ohayon, in-house film expert

Singlehanders, Shelagh Mackenzie & Kent Nason, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

“A terrific documentary on a transatlantic boat race where the participants must sail alone across the ocean. A film about perseverance, courage and going beyond one’s limits.  Exciting, breathtaking and tense but also inspiring and uplifting.”

Marc St-Pierre, in-house film expert

Canada Vignettes: The Performer , Norma Bailey, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

“This simple vignette – a few minutes in length – about Roger Doucet, the famous singer who belted out the national anthem before Habs game at the mythic (and defunct) Montreal Forum, between 1971 and 1981, brings me back to my youth and those unforgettable Hockey Nights in Canada. Special mention for commentator René Lecavalier’s verve and style, Gilles Tremblay’s astute analyses and brilliant interviews, courtesy of Lionel Duval.”

Lea Nakonechny, stock footage

Animals, Jason Young, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

“Animals is perhaps even more relevant in 2012, the year of massive beef recalls, than when it was first released. I watched the film in Yorkton, SK in a room full of farmers—people who are accustomed to the idea of killing animals for food. Many of the latter wondered aloud what the big deal was, but from an urbanite’s perspective this documentary, about a young man who decides to eat exclusively the animals he raises and slaughters himself, can be hard to watch at times. Although Animals may not be for the squeamish, it raises important questions about the morality of eating meat and the industrial distance between contemporary carnivores and our food.”

Lorne Price, sales manager

United States of Africa, Yanick Létourneau, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

“I liked this documentary that follows Senegalese hip hop pioneer Didier Awadi on his quest to craft a music album that pays tribute to Africa’s great revolutionaries. A profound meditation on the power of music and pop culture.”

Mivil Deschênes, designer

The Lost Town of Switez, Kamil Polak, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

“A while ago, I stumbled upon the book The Knights of The Cross, by Henryk Sienkiewickz. I read it in one sitting. Since then, I’ve developed a soft spot for the epic battles of medieval Poland. In this genre, this gorgeous short film by Kamil Polak is a gem to behold. To watch in HD!”

Shawn Goldwater, writer

Creative Process: Norman McLaren, Donald McWilliams, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

“I’d only recently begun work at the NFB when I was asked to write the press kit for Don McWilliams’ Creative Process: Norman McLaren. I thought I knew a fair amount about Norman’s legacy already; of course, compared to the wonders that Don had unearthed, I knew almost nothing.

This project had been a labour of love for some time for Don―one a handful of active filmmakers to have worked directly with Norman. I was staggered by what Don wove together, from Norman’s extraordinary archives and from his even more extraordinary imagination. Rich with surprises and visual wonders, it remains one of my favourite NFB films.”

Carolyne Weldon, web writer

Christopher's Movie Matinee, Mort Ransen, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

“There were a good many films that made my heart go pitter-pat this year, but this crazy hippie cavalcade from 1968 easily wins the pie. Shot by a gaggle of Toronto teenagers, to whom the NFB had lent film cameras, Christopher’s Movie Matinée is the poetic, confusing, and at times, downright aggravating manifesto of a bunch of “counter-culture” young people trying to articulate their vision and explain what sets them apart from the rest of the world. For more on the film, read my post from earlier this February.”

* Thank you to Mivil Deschênes for the very excellent header image. Respect.

Add a new comment
  1. Is there an app for NFB for Samsung Smart TV and how do I find it and download it?

    — Philip,
    1. I *think* the NFB’s smart tv app is available for LG models only, right now. (And is pre-installed). Hope this helps.

      — Shawn,
  2. Yay, Julie!! Great taste!

    — Michael Fukushima,
    1. Thanks, Michael. 🙂

      — Julie Matlin,

Write your comment here