This informal black-and-white portrait of Leonard Cohen shows him at age 30 on a visit to his hometown of Montreal, where the poet, novelist and songwriter comes "to renew his neurotic affiliations." He reads his poetry to an enthusiastic crowd, strolls the streets of the city, relaxes in this three-dollar-a-night hotel room and even takes a bath.
In Margaret Atwood: Once in August, filmmaker Michael Rubbo attempts to discover what shapes the celebrated writer's fiction and what motivates her characters. As one of Canada's most distinguished poets and novelists, Atwood is also one of this country's most elusive literary figures.
This feature-length Oscar®-nominated documentary focuses on Malcolm Lowry, author of one of the major novels of the 20th century, Under the Volcano. But while Lowry fought a winning battle with words, he lost his battle with alcohol. Shot on location in four countries, the film combines photographs, readings by Richard Burton from the novel and interviews with the people who loved and hated Lowry, to create a vivid portrait of the man.
Farley Mowat has sold more books than any other Canadian writer – 10 million copies in 22 languages in 50 countries. In this short film, Mowat recalls some of his experiences that have found their way into his work.
This feature documentary is a portrait of the life and work of Canadian poet Irving Layton. Here, the artist who long masked himself in controversy, unexpectedly agrees to be unmasked in front of the camera. The 1981 Nobel nominee not only reads and explicates his own writings, but also speaks incisively about Canadian literature itself, defining it metaphorically as a "double hook" that combines "beauty and terror."
For more background info on this film, visit the NFB.ca blog.
In this feature documentary, husband-and-wife team Karsten Heuer and Leanne Allison (Being Caribou), along with their 2-year-old son and dog, retrace the literary footsteps of Canadian writer Farley Mowat. They canoe east from Calgary towards the Prairies (the geography of Farley's Born Naked and Owls in the Family) and then traverse the same paths that Mowat took more than 60 years earlier in Never Cry Wolf and People of the Deer. Their epic 5,000 km journey—trekking, sailing, portaging and paddling—ends in the Maritimes, at Mowat's Nova Scotia summer home.
In this short documentary, Canadian poet Andrew Suknaski introduces us to Wood Mountain, the south central Saskatchewan village he calls home. In between musings on his poetry, which is tinged with nostalgia and the vast loneliness of the plains, the poet discusses the area’s multicultural background and Native heritage, as well as the customs and stories of these various ethnic groups.
This feature documentary profiles poet Milton Acorn, who left his home in Prince Edward Island in the late 1940s to earn his living as an itinerant carpenter, and wound up in Toronto as one of Canada's most highly regarded poets and one of its most outrageous literary figures. Dubbed "The People's Poet" by fellow poets, he won the Governor General's Literary Award in 1975. Burned out by personal crises, Acorn moved back to Charlottetown in 1981. This film, directed by a P.E.I. filmmaker, brings out Acorn's wit, love of nature, unorthodox political views, and sometimes infuriating personal contradictions.
This feature film is a different portrait of Ottawa, as transfigured by the loving but provocative gaze of well-known Francophone writer Daniel Poliquin. In his novels, the national capital metamorphoses, like the dreaded rat that supposedly changed into the city's ubiquitous black squirrel in a bid to win our affection. Alternating reality and fiction, the film reveals another Ottawa through the dreams and desires of his novels' characters - all portrayed by Poliquin himself.
Part documentary, part drama, this film presents the life and work of Jack Kerouac, an American writer with Québec roots who became one of the most important spokesmen for his generation. Intercut with archival footage, photographs and interviews, this film takes apart the heroic myth and even returns to the childhood of the author whose life and work contributed greatly to the cultural, sexual and social revolution of the 1960s.
This short documentary profiles Quebec-born singing sisters Kate and Anna McGarrigle. The sisters enjoy international acclaim—although outside of the mainstream—for their inimitable style, their talent as songwriters, and especially their unassuming, informal personalities. With camera and sketchbook in hand, artist and filmmaker Caroline Leaf captures the sisters’ endearing qualities. The result is an easygoing, sometimes whimsical portrait of the famous sisters on and off stage. Highlights include excerpts from the sisters’ Carnegie Hall performance and a look at their songwriting and recording processes.
Ages 14 to 17
Diversity - Diversity in Communities
English Language Arts - Poetry
Geography - Territory: Urban
Health/Personal Development - Healthy Relationships
Study the work of Cohen and draw connections between his life and his poetry. Encourage students to describe their own writing process. Start a poetry workshop and have students record their thoughts on the subjects and techniques used. Find aspects of local culture that might inspire students (fairs, concerts, art galleries, car shows, theatre or movies) and visit them if possible. Students can take photos/notes and later attempt to turn their experiences into poetry. How do these experiences affect their writing?