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Canada as Seen by NFB Filmmakers: Films from Across the Country (Part 2)

Canada as Seen by NFB Filmmakers: Films from Across the Country (Part 2)

Canada as Seen by NFB Filmmakers: Films from Across the Country (Part 2)

To mark Canada Day this year, the NFB is showcasing dozens of outstanding films made by directors in provinces and territories across the country, providing a rich, historical look at Canadian society’s diverse realities and communities through 14 channels, each of which contains at least nine titles—one per decade from 1940 to 2020. This Curator’s Perspective offers an introduction to this Canada Day programming by highlighting some of the films created for this initiative, which takes viewers on a journey through multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Canada that spans more than 80 years.

Since its inception, the NFB has played a crucial role in modernizing Canadian cinema, not only by producing films made by Canadians for a Canadian public, but also by prioritizing a policy of inclusion that has enabled Indigenous Peoples, immigrants, francophones, anglophones, women, youth, Black people, Latin Americans, Asian Canadians, Arab Canadians and members of 2SLGBTQI+ communities to participate in Canada’s film landscape. With this focused sample of 85 years of producing, the NFB is pleased to offer viewers a sweeping, one-of-a-kind Canadian “family film album.” This is an invitation to watch and enjoy some of the NFB’s filmmaking gems over the decades—memorable snapshots of life from each Canadian province and territory!

Given the size of the program, this blog post will be published in two parts. If you’d like to read part one, click on the following link: Canada as Seen by NFB Filmmakers (Part 1): Yukon, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Ontario and Nunavut.

The Northwest Territories: 80+ Years of NFB Filmmaking History

We’ll begin the second part of this blog post with The Northwest Territories as Seen by NFB Filmmakers, a selection of 11 films made between 1948 and 2021. The history of NFB filmmaking in the NWT begins with recently digitized Eye Witness No. 3 (1948), a brief look at the then-growing town of Yellowknife. The channel features three more reportage-style works: Eye Witness No. 29 (1950), Down North (1958) and Strange Doings (1964), about Fort Simpson, Hay River and Port Radium, and Inuvik, respectively. The NFB classic Nahanni (1962), about the National Park Reserve that was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also included; as is First Arctic Winter Games (1970), part of the four-film NFB series on the “Arctic Olympics.” CBQM (2009) is a tribute to the eponymous radio station operating out of Fort McPherson, and the insightful and heartfelt Into Light (2021) captures a season of change, as a mother and child navigate the complexities of gender identity.

Into Light, Sheona McDonald, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Newfoundland and Labrador: TV Icons, Local Communities and Traditions

Newfoundland and Labrador as Seen by NFB Filmmakers opens with the 1945 film Atlantic Crossroads, which focuses on the important role Newfoundland played in WWII due to its geographical position. Recently added to, the drama The Dowry (1969) is a rare gem about a fisherman, the girl of his dreams and his boat. The channel also offers three films about local communities: Labrador North (1973), The Last Days of Okak (1985) and My Ancestors Were Rogues and Murderers (2005); as well as an uplifting film about Canadian TV icon and Newfoundlander Mary Walsh called Radical (2019), made by local filmmaker Deanne Foley. One of my personal favourite recent releases is also included: Nalujuk Night (2021), which looks at an exhilarating—and sometimes terrifying—Labrador Inuit tradition that takes place every January 6 in the dark of the Nunatsiavut night.

Nalujuk Night, Jennie Williams, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Manitoba: Arts, Nature and Oscar Winners

Next up, Manitoba as Seen by NFB Filmmakers comprises 11 films that cover more than 90 years of filmmaking ground. The channel includes Beaver People (1928), a silent short that the NFB inherited from another public agency, about the famous conservationist Grey Owl and his wife, Anahareo, who had a special talent for interacting with beavers. John Hirsch: A Portrait of a Man and a Theatre (1965) is about a man whose passion led to the creation of the Manitoba Theatre Centre, Oscar-winning Some Natives of Churchill (1973) was made by local filmmaker Cynthia Scott, and the NFB classic doc Ted Baryluk’s Grocery (1982) is composed of a memorable montage of photographs. The channel also includes the popular First Stories Nganawendaanan Nde’ing (I Keep Them in My Heart) (2009), boasting more than 9,000 views on, as well as Karsten Wall’s recent, striking film Modern Goose (2022), which exquisitely depicts the ancient instincts and contemporary world of Canadian geese.

Modern Goose, Karsten Wall, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

New Brunswick: Musicians, Acadie and Breathtaking Scenery

Also part of this Canada Day initiative is the New Brunswick as Seen by NFB Filmmakers channel, where viewers can discover this unique Canadian province and its communities. First up, from 1949, Underwater Harvest chronicles lobster season in New Brunswick. The recent addition Don Messer: His Land and His Music (1971) celebrates the local folk icon and king of Maritime fiddling, taking audiences on the road, into the studio and backstage with a one-of-a-kind, fun-loving band. The acclaimed feature doc Acadia Acadia?!? (1971), co-directed by influential Quebecois filmmakers Michel Brault and Pierre Perrault, offers an on-the-spot record of the student protests that shook the Université de Moncton in 1968–69. The channel also includes Cafeteria (2015), a doc that looks at how an entire community mobilized to improve the cafeteria menu at a primary school in Cocagne, and The Geographies of DAR (2022), a visually stunning film on acclaimed author David Adams Richards and his connection to one of Canada’s most overlooked yet breathtaking regions.

The Geographies of DAR, Monique LeBlanc, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Nova Scotia: Black Canadians, Local Artists and Secret Societies

Nova Scotia as Seen by NFB Filmmakers opens with a film by groundbreaking filmmaker Margaret Perry, Trappers of the Sea (1945), that presents both the problems and methods of the province’s lobster-fishing industry. The recently restored and digitized Louisbourg (1972) explores the Fortress of Louisbourg, a historical landmark on the Atlantic shore. Also included are two films about internationally renowned local artists: Hugh MacLennan: Portrait of a Writer (1972) and Maud Lewis: A World Without Shadows (1972). The channel is enriched by a trilogy of Black Canadian milestone films, Encounter at Kwacha House – Halifax (1967), Speak It! From the Heart of Black Nova Scotia (1992) and Journey to Justice (2000), directed by some of the most influential Black Canadian filmmakers. Lastly, Phil Comeau’s The Secret Order (2022) shines a spotlight on the Ordre de Jacques-Cartier, a powerful secret society that operated from 1926 to 1965, infiltrating every sector of Canadian society and forging the fate of French-language communities.

The Secret Order, Phil Comeau, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

BC, Alberta and the NFB Canadian Family Album

British Columbia as Seen by NFB Filmmakers and Alberta as Seen by NFB Filmmakers bring viewers a sample of the fascinating films made in the West, such as BC productions  Ripple Rock (1959), Pen-Hi Grad (1975) and Arthur Erickson (1981), and Alberta films The Banff-Jasper Highway (1940), Corral (1954) and Foster Child (1987). The former also offers the recent release by Alanis Obomsawin Bill Reid Remembers (2021), a beautiful tribute to a remarkable life and rich legacy.

Bill Reid Remembers, Alanis Obomsawin, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

During the summer, we invite you to visit these seven channels and their 63 films—a treasure trove of Canadian experiences and perspectives, as chronicled by the NFB’s filmmakers over the decades. A unique Canadian family album of sorts, this complex, multihued portrait of the country includes  Cheryl Foggo’s acclaimed John Ware Reclaimed (2020), a quest to re-examine the mythology surrounding the eponymous Black cowboy who settled in Alberta, Canada, before the turn of the 20th century.

John Ware Reclaimed, Cheryl Foggo, provided by the National Film Board of Canada


To read the first part of this post, click on Canada as Seen by NFB Filmmakers (Part 1): Yukon, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Ontario and Nunavut.

Header image: Dance (1979) by Lise-Hélène Larin

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