The Masters Series: Terence Macartney-Filgate
Terence Macartney-Filgate is one of the earliest proponents of direct cinema at the NFB. Hired in 1954, he began his career as a script writer and production assistant. Imagine the days when those two jobs were combined! A completely different world.
Macartney-Filgate’s next gig was making training films. While not very stimulating, this work did much in the way of teaching the building blocks of film. He developed relationships with Wolf Koenig and Roman Kroiter during this time. When they went off to try something called “direct cinema,” Macartney-Filgate joined them.
And thus began an incredibly rich career for the filmmaker, as he went on to make several well-regarded documentaries about a wide variety of subjects. He covered the tobacco industry, automobiles, steam engines, the history of our country, etc. But whatever the subject matter, all of his films are mesmerizing to watch. For no matter the topic, Macartney-Filgate always manages to capture something of the human condition in his work.
Making Movie History: Terence Macartney-Filgate
This clip from the Making Movie History series offers a candid look at the filmmaker, as he discusses his early days at the board, and how he developed a mastery of direct cinema. I cannot stress enough how incredible this series is, and the insight it’s offered as I write these posts and explore the filmmakers’ work.
The Back-breaking Leaf
This is probably one of Macartney-Filgate’s most well-known films, and for good reason. Made in the early years of his career, this film takes viewers into the tobacco fields where physical labour is the order of the day. He rejected a cameraman on location, opting to shoot the footage himself. One of the most important lessons he learned in the tobacco fields? Hold your breath and don’t get trampled.
The Days Before Christmas
Possibly the best example of direct cinema that the Board has produced, this short film takes viewers out into the streets and stores of Montreal in the days leading up to Christmas. The film, made with Stanley Jackson and Wolf Koenig, didn’t rely on a script. The idea was simply to capture what was out there. They brought Michel Brault and Georges Dufaux along for the ride, both of whom were so enamored of the process they brought it back to the French side of the Board.
The Cars in Your Life
Macartney-Filgate inserts humour into his work with this film, with considerable success. The Cars in your Life looks at North America’s growing obsession with the automobile, and how big a place it’s managed to take up in our lives. It also attempts to answer the age-old question – what’s more important, the luxury and enjoyment of a convertible, or the discomfort of those sitting in the back seat?
Canada Remembers – Part 1 – 3
Much later in his career, Macartney-Filgate undertook the massive project of documenting the years between 1939 and 1944, and how WWII impacted Canadians. It’s a 3-part series, with each episode focusing on a different block of time. From landmark battles on the front to the contribution of women at home, from the final phases of the war to its aftermath. It’s a colossal work and it’s done with the filmmaker’s signature style and grace.