The Back-breaking Leaf

The Back-breaking Leaf


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Here is a graphic picture of the tobacco harvest in southwestern Ontario. At the end of July, transient field workers move in for a brief bonanza when the plant is ripe. The tobacco harvesters call it "the back-breaking leaf."

This award-winning film was originally produced for the Candid Eye series, but when this show ended its run on the CBC it was decided to air the film on Documentary 60, the show that took over Candid Eye’s timeslot.

Albert Ohayon
From the playlist: The 1950s: Television and the Move to Montreal

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The Back-breaking Leaf, Terence Macartney-Filgate, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

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  • director
    Terence Macartney-Filgate
  • camera
    Terence Macartney-Filgate
  • assistant director
    Gilles Gascon
  • editing
    John Spotton
  • sound
    Terence Macartney-Filgate
    Victor Merrill
    George Croll
  • music
    Eldon Rathburn
  • commentary
    Stanley Jackson
  • producer
    Roman Kroitor
    Wolf Koenig
  • executive producer
    Tom Daly

  • Biff Harrelson

    This wonderful film is just the thing you need after viewing "Borderline."

    Biff Harrelson, 7 May 2020
  • ggpoet

    This too amazing! I grew up on a tobacco farm in the 50's and 60's and it is great to find documentation of a era that seems to be forgotten in history.

    ggpoet, 5 Oct 2013
  • gilleh

    Brings back memories - as a teen leaf-handling - before machines in the 60s. Dirty work - Agree - most kids today wouldn't do it.

    gilleh, 15 Jan 2013
  • tnunn

    I grew up in Norfolk County, working in tobacco with family members in my teen years. It was tough work made only slightly easier with machinery in the 70s. This film captures the scene in the 50s and 60s. On the farm where we worked, it was our family and a great family from Quebec and we worked harder than ever to fill each kiln. A great film.

    tnunn, 10 Feb 2012
  • evinrude

    1968...The hardest 6 weeks I've spent...I never went back but was proud to have finished the season...C

    evinrude, 12 Apr 2011
  • sh1fty

    This is incredible. I'd say about 95% of us today would pass out in the first 3 hours doing this kind of work!

    sh1fty, 25 Mar 2010

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