This feature documentary takes us to the heart of the Jane-Finch "Corridor" in the early 1980s. Covering six square blocks in Toronto's North York, the area readily evokes images of vandalism, high-density subsidized housing, racial tension, despair and crime. By focusing on the lives of several of the residents, many of them black or members of other visible minorities, the film provides a powerful view of a community that, contrary to its popular image, is working towards a more positive future.
This documentary features Black women active in politics as well as community, labour and feminist organizing. They share their insights and personal testimonies on the double legacy of racism and sexism, linking their personal struggles with the ongoing battle to end systemic discrimination and violence against women and people of colour.
This documentary reveals some of the hidden history of Blacks in Canada. In the 1930s in rural Ontario, a farmer buried the tombstones of a Black cemetery to make way for a potato patch. In the 1980s, descendants of the original settlers, Black and White, came together to restore the cemetery, but there were hidden truths no one wanted to discuss. Deep racial wounds were opened. Scenes of the cemetery excavation, interviews with residents and re-enactments—including one of a baseball game where a broken headstone is used for home plate—add to the film's emotional intensity.
This feature documentary presents a thoughtful and vivid portrait of a community facing imposed relocation. At the centre of the story is a remarkably astute and luminous 12-year-old black girl whose poignant observations about life, the soul, and the power of art give voice to those rarely heard in society. Unarmed Verses is a cinematic rendering of our universal need for self-expression and belonging.
Please note: This film contains explicit language. Viewer discretion is advised.
John Ware Reclaimed follows filmmaker Cheryl Foggo on her quest to re-examine the mythology surrounding John Ware, the Black cowboy who settled in Alberta, Canada, before the turn of the 20th century. Foggo’s research uncovers who this iconic figure might have been, and what his legacy means in terms of anti-Black racism, both past and present.
This documentary tells the story of a young man’s struggle to balance his African traditions and new Canadian home. Arinze Eze was born in Canada and raised in Nigeria. An engineer by trade, he returned to his birthplace after 20 years. There, he starts a new career in the arts and falls in love with Canadian woman. All is well until his parents come for a visit. How will they react to this new life?
This 1996 documentary takes a nostalgic ride through history to present the experiences of Black sleeping-car porters who worked on Canada's railways from the early 1900s through the 1960s. There was a strong sense of pride among these men and they were well-respected by their community. Yet, harsh working conditions prevented them from being promoted to other railway jobs until finally, in 1955, porter Lee Williams took his fight to the union.
Claiming discrimination under the Canada Fair Employment Act, the Black workers won their right to work in other areas. Interviews, archival footage and the music of noted jazz musician Joe Sealy (whose father was a porter) combine to portray a fascinating history that might otherwise have been forgotten.
Renee Thompson is trying to make it as a top fashion model in New York. She's got the looks, the walk and the drive. But she’s a black model in a world where white women represent the standard of beauty. Agencies rarely hire black models. And when they do, they want them to look “like white girls dipped in chocolate.”
The Colour of Beauty is a shocking short documentary that examines racism in the fashion industry. Is a black model less attractive to designers, casting directors and consumers? What is the colour of beauty?
This film is part of the Work For All series, produced by the National Film Board of Canada, with the participation of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.
Over the course of a decade Brooks, Alberta, transformed from a socially conservative, primarily white town to one of the most diverse places in Canada as immigrants and refugees flocked to find jobs at the Lakeside Packers slaughterhouse. This film is a portrait of those people working together and adapting to change through the first-ever strike at Lakeside.
Director Mina Shum makes her foray into feature documentary by reopening the file on a watershed moment in Canadian race relations – the infamous Sir George Williams Riot. Over four decades after a group of Caribbean students accused their professor of racism, triggering an explosive student uprising, Shum locates the protagonists and listens as they set the record straight, trying to make peace with the past.
In this short documentary, five black women talk about their lives in rural and urban Canada between the 1920s and 1950s. What emerges is a unique history of Canada’s black people and the legacy of their community elders. Produced by the NFB’s iconic Studio D.
This short documentary follows several refugee families during their first 19 days in Canada, as they navigate an unfamiliar terrain that has suddenly become their home. Located in the quiet Calgary neighbourhood of Bridgeland, the Margaret Chisholm Resettlement Centre is the starting point for government-assisted refugees who arrive in the city. During the 19-day timeline established by the federal government, an initial assessment is done and refugees are assisted with everything from airport reception and orientation to referrals, documents, and counselling.
19 Days reveals the human side of the refugee resettlement process. A unique look at the global migration crisis and one particular stage of asylum, it lays plain the realities faced on the difficult road towards integration.
Ages 16 to 18
Study Guide - Guide 1
Diversity - Black Studies
Family Studies/Home Economics - Family Diversity and Challenges
Family Studies/Home Economics - Housing
Social Studies - Social Policies and Programs
Warning (if any): Mention of rape, murder, outdated terminology (“Blacks”), policing that may be triggering for some.
Brief “lesson launcher type” activity or a series of inquiry questions with a bit of context:
A documentary exploring the Toronto neighbourhood of Jane and Finch and the history of systemic racism in the Toronto Police Services. In the film, they mention the term “police insensitivity”; what would we call this now? Is it more valuable to have police on “foot patrol” or police in vehicles patrolling the area? How might the shift in the methods of policing change the relationship between community members and police? Looking at the landscapes of Toronto in 1983 versus today, what changes do you notice about the areas?
At the beginning of the film, they list a variety of countries where people have immigrated from. How has this changed over time?
The perception that the white single mother is “down on her luck” and has no other choice but to live in community housing is at odds with the two-parent households of Black families that live in such communities. How does this reflect the structural racism inherent in our society and the avenues that are available to people depending on their race?
As the police are on foot patrol, many residents explain that they feel they are being policed rather than protected. Similar statements could be made today. This film was made in 1983. Black Lives Matter was founded in 2013. People took to the streets to protest police brutality in 2020. Why has it taken so long for Black voices to be heard?
In one scene, a white-presenting police officer laments about how he’s heard that groups feel discriminated against—different “colours,” women. What is problematic about this opinion?
The police also report that the “youth” exaggerate circumstances of what happens in the neighbourhood; do you believe this is true? How can youth feel as though they are being heard or empowered?