Billy Crane Moves Away

Billy Crane Moves Away

| 17 min

This short documentary features Newfoundland fisherman Billy Crane, who speaks frankly on the state of the inshore fishery and how the lack of government support has contributed to the industry’s downfall. He is being forced to leave home to seek employment in Toronto. This film was made with the Challenge for Change program.

Manifesto Point # 3: Use documentary and media to “participate” rather than just to observe and to record. Filmmaker-in-Residence is not an A/V or a PR department. Billy Crane Moves Away is one of 27 films made during the legendary Fogo Island Experiment of the Challenge for Change project in the late ’60s. Fogo is heralded as one of the program’s great successes. In the late ’60’s, the government of Newfoundland had unilaterally decided that the small villagers of remote Fogo should leave the island, but the people didn’t want to go. Talks had broken down, and an NFB Challenge for Change filmmaker, Colin Low, along with an academic from Memorial University, came to the island to use film as an experiment. They would film life on the island, show the footage back to the villagers and then to the government. They also filmed the bureaucrats watching and responding to the films, and then showed that back to the community. By using film as a way to participate in mediation and dialogue between two groups who were no longer talking face-to-face, the Challenge for Change process was credited with helping all sides come up with a viable solution: the creation of a co-op fishing cannery, that is still in existence today. In Filmmaker-in-Residence, I re-tooled this methodology in a film called UNEXPECTED, in which we filmed healthcare workers talking about the difficulties of providing healthcare to homeless women giving birth. We then trained young women who have had experience with homelessness to use video cameras to interview themselves and other young parents about their own natal care. We showed each group the other’s footage, and the resulting dialogue was… remarkable.

Katerina Cizek
From the playlist: Manifesto for Interventionist Media - because Art is a Hammer

Billy Crane Moves Away features a Fogo resident explaining his decision to leave the cod fishery and the island for a factory job on the outskirts of Toronto.

Capturing the direct and plainspoken views of an islander for the express purpose of promoting a discussion of these topics within the community, it is perhaps the most representative film from Colin Low's pioneering Fogo series. In the mid-1970s Low was confronted by John Grierson in front of a class of his McGill undergraduates; he wanted to know, "What the value was of this film shot off Fogo Island. Was it good for television? Mass media? What did it say to Canada? What did it say to the world?"

These questions highlight the concerns of NFB and government ministry officials over the production of films targeting such specific audiences and addressing such local concerns. Yet the film illustrates the program's most innovative and influential dimension, namely the lasting value of the films to filmmakers and community organizers as training tools for similar ventures. This is to say nothing of the importance of the series as a document of the people, culture and language of the remote island community.

Thomas Waugh, Ezra Winton, Michael Baker
From the playlist: Challenge for Change
  • director
    Colin Low
  • producer
    John Kemeny
  • photography
    Robert Humble
  • editing
    Dennis Sawyer

Billy Crane Moves Away
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  • pixielin13

    Billy Crane Moves Away is a movie about my father-in-law. He was an uneducated man until he was in his 60's when he learned how to read, finally. Although he could not read until late in life, he was very intelligent about his surroundings, and always spoke his piece when asked. His sense of humor was truly awesome.Looking back over so many years, sure shows how right he was, and how badly the government wanted to get rid of the people of Newfoundland. Even today, after living on the Northern Peninsula, I get the impression that if the government could make Newfoundland Island a big park for tourism, the rest of the Islanders would also be pushed out. The hardiness and the camaraderie of these incredible inhabitants show everyone that it takes a stout heart to survive and believe me, I saw it first hand. Whole families of men gone in one storm. I just love the people of this big rock,and I was taken in as if I was a family member.

    pixielin13, 23 Jun 2010

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Billy Crane Moves Away, Colin Low, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

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