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Jennifer Hodge

Jennifer Hodge

Groundbreaking documentary filmmaker Jennifer Hodge de Silva (1951–1989) was the first Black director to make films at the NFB about Black Canadian communities, perspectives and experiences. 

Born in Montreal, Hodge de Silva earned a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Fine Arts from Glendon College at Toronto’s York University in 1974 and a BFA in Television Arts from the Ryerson Polytechnic Institute (Toronto Metropolitan University) in 1979. While completing her BFA, she received her first professional credit at the NFB, as assistant director and associate producer on Terence Macartney-Filgate’s Fields of Endless Day (1978), a docudrama composed of vignettes of Black Canadian history from the 17th century through to the first half of the 20th century. The film seeks to uncover the “roots” of Canada’s Black population. 

One year later, Hodge de Silva directed her first NFB film, Canada Vignettes: Helen Law (1979), a portrait of a Chinese immigrant to Canada, as witnessed through the eyes of her son, a first-generation Canadian. In the following years, she made Toronto’s Ethnic Police Squad (1979), Myself, Yourself (1980) and Joe David: Spirit of the Mask (1982). 

Hodge de Silva married fellow filmmaker Paul de Silva in 1982 and together they founded the production company Jenfilms Inc., whose projects include the TV series Inside Stories (1989), a chronicle of the experiences of ethnically diverse residents of Toronto, as well as the multi-awarded and acclaimed series Neighbourhoods. 

Her final film with the NFB was Home Feeling: Struggle for a Community (1983). Described by Hodge de Silva as “the people’s side of the story,” this highly praised feature doc explores the tensions between the Toronto Police Service and residents of the Jane and Finch area, focussing on the lives of members of the Jamaican, Grenadian and Guyanese communities. 

Hodge de Silva’s acclaimed body of work formed the backbone of Black Canadian filmmaking in Canada and at the NFB, and it continues to be celebrated and screened across the country and around the world.

[1] https://www.cbc.ca/arts/an-oral-history-of-the-black-film-and-video-network-1.5559797

[1] ibid.