Croisés sur le belvédère du mont Royal, une dizaine de passants ont accepté de réciter une prière dans leur langue et croyance respectives.
This documentary is a portrait of modern-day Pondicherry, an ancient city near the southern tip of India. For several centuries an outpost of France, the city is now home to Auroville, a spiritual community growing on its periphery. There, European and North American devotees of Sri Aurobindo, a Bengali poet and mystic, come to live the contemplative life. Their guru is a 94-year-old woman from France. This mecca of sorts is seen through the eyes of Albert Jordan, a professor from Concordia University, in Montreal, who spent a year there with his family in 1971.
The Eye Witness series is a collection of short documentaries featuring Canadian news stories from the 1940s and '50s. This segment includes Prairie Harbour: The Port of Flowing Grain, a look at the lakehead cities of Fort William and Port Arthur, funnelling centres for western grain on its way to world markets. In Modern Miracle: Surgery is Safe, the appendectomy of patient Henry Brown demonstrates the advances in modern medicine. Co-Op Carpenters: Home-Made Community illustrates the principles behind the cooperative housing program for veterans in Carleton Heights near Ottawa.
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 short documentary is part of a series hosted by American historian, sociologist, philosopher of technology, and literary critic Lewis Mumford, who was particularly noted for his study of cities and urban architecture. This episode explores the tension and mutual dependence of urban and rural areas. History shows that cities thrive best when they live in harmony and balance with the countryside. How can this balance be maintained or restored in sprawling metropolitan regions? The film is a revealing portrait of the discourses of urbanization that were circulating in the middle of the 20th century, including the development of what we know today as the suburbs.
This short documentary is part of a series hosted by American historian, sociologist, philosopher of technology, and literary critic Lewis Mumford, who was particularly noted for his study of cities and urban architecture. In this episode, Mumford meditates on the “ugly and savagely debased surroundings” of the industrial cities that sprung up in formerly empty rural areas during the Industrial Revolution. Mumford juxtaposes the squalor of the working poor with the relative safety and security of the wealthy. He asks what can be done to address “the spirit of social hopelessness” that thrives in the overcrowded slums where a city’s poorest residents live.
A collaborative work made in the spirit of cinéma-vérité, St-Henri, the 26th of August was directed by Shannon Walsh and16 fellow documentary filmmakers. Chronicling life in a former working-class Montreal neighbourhood over a 24-hour period, St-Henri, the 26th of August follows several compelling stories and characters. The film is an homage to the 1962 Hubert Aquin classic À Saint-Henri le cinq septembre.
The people of the Attawapiskat First Nation, a Cree community in northern Ontario, were thrust into the national spotlight in 2012 when the impoverished living conditions on their reserve became an issue of national debate. With The People of the Kattawapiskak River, Abenaki director Alanis Obomsawin quietly attends as community members tell their own story, shedding light on a history of dispossession and official indifference. “Obomsawin’s main objective is to make us see the people of Attawapiskat differently,” said Robert Everett-Green in The Globe & Mail. “The emphasis, ultimately, is not so much on looking as on listening—the first stage in changing the conversation, or in making one possible.” Winner of the 2013 Donald Brittain Award for Best Social/Political Documentary, the film is part of a cycle of films that Obomsawin has made on children’s welfare and rights.
Also available on the Alanis Obomsawin: A Legacy DVD box set
This documentary is a portrait of Point St. Charles, one of Montreal’s notoriously bleak neighbourhoods. Many of the residents are English-speaking and of Irish origin; many of them are also on welfare. Considered to be one of the toughest districts in all of Canada, Point St. Charles is poor in terms of community facilities, but still full of rich contrasts and high spirits – that is, most of the time.
St.John's, Newfoundland is North America's most easterly landfall. For half a millennium, its perfect harbour has provided a safe refuge in the middle of the treacherous North Atlantic. For 300 years of its history it was an actual crime to try and settle--Newfoundland was the private preserve of British fishing merchants. But people stayed, despite the colonial masters, despite the lack of law and order, despite hellish weather and raging seas. And the city grew--lurching through centuries of crisis, disaster, privation. For filmmaker, Rosemary House, 'This is still a hard rock land, a dirty old town at the back of beyond. And yet the St.John's townie is so proud, you'd swear we lived in Paris.' In this documentary, she explores her city with the help of six locals, Mary Walsh, Andy Jones, Anita Best, Brian Hennessey, Ed Riche, Des Walsh, writers and performers all, who walk through their home town and try to show what makes them love it so.
Visit the outpost community of Pangnirtung, located on the rim of the Arctic Circle, in this short documentary from 1959. Here, a handful of people provide for the health and welfare of a scattered Inuit population. The outpost, made up of nothing more than a cluster of buildings on a windswept fjord, has an influence that reaches far beyond its physical borders.
Please note that this is an archival film that makes use of the word “Eskimo,” an outdated and offensive term. While the origin of the word is a matter of some contention, it is no longer used in Canada. The term was formally rejected by the Inuit Circumpolar Council in 1980 and has subsequently not been in use at the NFB for decades. This film is therefore a time-capsule of a bygone era, presented in its original version. The NFB apologizes for the offence caused.
The growing resolve of a group of Montréal women, members of STOP (Society To Overcome Pollution), to do something about air pollution by factories in their city led to a campaign to focus public attention on the problem. Despite rebuffs of every kind, they persisted until they were able to bring newspapers, radio and television to bear on their fight. What they accomplished, and how they went about it, will interest urban audiences.