This 1959 feature documentary is a foray into Canada’s art milieu. What is it like to be a Canadian artist? Answering this central question are Teresa Stratas, winner of Metropolitan Opera auditions; acclaimed lyric tenor Léopold Simoneau and his talented wife, soprano Pierrette Alarie; the National Ballet Company of Canada’s artistic director, Celia Franca and leading male dancer, David Adams; as well as jazz pianist Oscar Peterson, whom we visit at 3 o'clock in the morning at Boston's Storyville Club. The film also includes interviews with radio and television actor John Drainie, Christopher Plummer and Jean Gascon, director of Montreal's Théâtre du Nouveau Monde.
This short documentary features Canadian contralto Maureen Forrester as she sings at the Festival Casals, a musical event founded by the great Spanish cellist and conductor Pablo Casals and sponsored annually by the Puerto Rican government. Part concert film, part tourism film, Festival in Puerto Rico offers viewers candid glimpses of mid-20th century Puerto Rico intercut with performance footage of Forrester and her husband, violinist-conductor Eugene Kash.
This feature documentary offers a glimpse of contemporary Cuba’s rich musical culture through the experiences of renowned Canadian soprano sax player and flautist Jane Bunnett. Jane and her husband, trumpeter Larry Cramer, are surrounded by the charm of Old Havana as they connect with some of the city's finest musicians—like singers Bobby Carcasses and Amado Dedeu —for a recording session. Bunnett and Cramer then venture to small towns like Cienfuegos and Camaguey, where they hook up with local musicians and visit music schools. Global music fans will be captivated by the performances of Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, a celebrated Afro-Cuban rumba group, and Desandann, a 10-member a cappella choir that sings in Haitian Creole.
Brilliantly mixing animated sequences and archival footage, Marie-Josée Saint-Pierre paints a touching portrait of virtuoso pianist Oscar Peterson. As with her previous films (McLaren’s Negative and Jutra), Saint-Pierre pursues her bold and personal approach with this animated documentary of Oscar Peterson at the twilight of an exceptional career, as he wistfully meditates on the price of fame and the impacts of the artist’s life on family life. From the young prodigy’s beginnings in Little Burgundy to his triumphs on the international stage alongside the biggest stars of his time, Oscar explores the profound solitude of an artist constantly on tour, and the difficulty in reconciling his professional success with his role as husband and father. Set to the tunes of Peterson’s sometimes catchy, sometimes melancholy-tinged compositions, the film alternates between animated sequences and footage of radio and video interviews to tell a heartfelt story about a life in jazz.
The NFB’s 8th Academy-Award winning film. This short film is an impressionistic record of a flamenco dance class given to senior students of the National Ballet School of Canada by two great teachers from Spain, Susana and Antonio Robledo. The film shows the beautiful young North American dancers—inspired by the flamenco rhythms and mesmerized by Susana's extraordinary energy—joyously merging with an ancient gypsy culture.
This short film addresses the revolving cycles of human conflict through contemporary dance. Celebrated choreographer Crystal Pite and dance filmmakers Marlene Millar & Philip Szporer commemorate the fading legacies of WWI, while also creating a moving homage to Pite’s mentors and contemporaries, whose lives and short careers are pitted against the fleeting nature of the dance art form. Featuring Theodore Ushev’s haunting and distinct artwork, the film explores the themes of conflict, loss, and rescue we all experience as we cycle through states of love and war.
Warning: Although this film was shot in 3D, the streaming and downloadable versions are available in 2D only.
Bryan Adams is one of world’s most enduringly popular singer/songwriters. He is most at home in his Vancouver studio, surrounded by his collection of vintage microphones and guitars. Adams calls it “a very analog space in a very digital world.” In this short documentary, we witness an intimate rendition of his song “One World, One Flame” and hear him speak of his audience-centred approach to performance: “I want it to be fun, I want it to be real.”
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.
Show Girls celebrates Montreal's swinging Black jazz scene from the 1920s to the 1960s, when the city was wide open. Three women who danced in the legendary Black clubs of the day - Rockhead's Paradise, The Terminal, Café St. Michel - share their unforgettable memories of life at the centre of one of the world's hottest jazz spots. From the Roaring Twenties, through the Second World War and on into the golden era of clubs in the fifties and sixities, Show Girls chronicles the lives of Bernice, Tina and Olga - mixing their memories with rarely seen footage of the era. Their stories are told against a backdrop of the fascinating social and political history that made Montreal a jazz and nightclub hotspot for decades. It is a story of song and dance, music and pride.
The NFB's 24th Oscar®-nominated film.
This short film by Norman McLaren is a cinematic study of the choreography of ballet. A bare, black set with the back-lit figures of dancers Margaret Mercier and Vincent Warren create a dream-like, hypnotic effect. This award-winning film comes complete with the visual effects one expects from this master filmmaker.
This short documentary profiles Canadian actor Christopher Plummer of the Shakespearean Theater, best known as The Sound of Music’s Captain von Trapp. In his dressing room, Plummer dons his make-up and prepares to enter stage as Cyrano de Bergerac.
This short documentary gives us insight into the singing prowess of renowned tenor Ben Heppner, one of Canada’s pre-eminent musical ambassadors. Revealing his intimate connection to the power of performance, the film plays with scale and layers of sound, revisiting the architectural and sonic spaces that Heppner’s voice has inhabited throughout his remarkable career—from country churches to the major opera houses of the world.
Produced by the National Film Board of Canada in co-operation with the National Arts Centre and the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards Foundation on the occasion of the 2016 Governor General's Performing Arts Awards.