The Things I Cannot Change

The Things I Cannot Change

| 55 min

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This feature documentary is considered to be the forerunner of the NFB's Challenge for Change Program. The film offers in inside look at 3 weeks in the life of the Bailey family. Trouble with the police, begging for stale bread, and the birth of another child are just some of the issues they face. Through it all, the father tries to explain his family's predicament. Although filmed in Montreal, the film offers an anatomy of poverty as it occurs throughout North America.

Things I Cannot Change is not, strictly speaking, part of the CFC/SN program. While it is often held-up as the first film under the Challenge for Change banner and discussed as key component of the program's legacy, the film was completed as a pilot project and broadcast on CBC prior to the formal launch of CFC. It stirred a great deal of controversy with regards to the treatment of the poverty-stricken family at the centre of the film. According to contributor Marit Kathryn Corneil, "the outrage this caused at the NFB inspired some producers and filmmakers to rethink the ethics of documentary filmmaking in the context of community development, and this became the agenda for the experimental program in ethical documentary at CFC/SN."

Thomas Waugh, Ezra Winton, Michael Baker
From the playlist: Challenge for Change

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The Things I Cannot Change, Tanya Ballantyne, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

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  • director
    Tanya Ballantyne
  • producer
    John Kemeny
  • photography
    Paul Leach
  • sound
    Roger Hart
  • editing
    William Brind
  • sound editing
    Bernard Bordeleau
  • re-recording
    Ron Alexander
    Roger Lamoureux

  • MarleneFul

    Beautiful children cant blame them for wanting more.

    MarleneFul, 21 Sep 2019
  • NFB_Moderator

    @sixam --> The filmmakers made a choice not to interfere in the proceedings. While some people might find it unethical, it was ultimately the choice of the filmmaker.

    NFB_Moderator, 23 Mar 2015
  • sixam

    Why didn't the crew show the film to the police? Would that have been unethical?

    sixam, 21 Mar 2015
  • Fred83

    btw COURAGE TO CHANGE is now available online:

    Fred83, 16 Mar 2015
  • Bluepoint

    These folks are heroes for contributing to a truthful view of the human condition. The descendants can be very proud of this film.

    Bluepoint, 19 Jan 2014
  • loralei

    this is a wonderul film. Aside from the realities of 60' poor. NOTHING to be ashamed of. Have seen the update too.All the Best for the remaining Baileys

    loralei, 19 Jan 2014
  • HBennett

    I would like to know when Mr and Mrs Bailey passed away... And if all the adult children did well after Courage to Change... Also, the lady who was in the hospital, is she doing well???

    HBennett, 16 Sep 2012
  • CynnBailey

    I am the daughter of the 4th oldest born...I love this film I can watch it over and over to see my aunt uncle and mom when they where little.I love seeing my grandparents i miss them very so much <3 :-(

    CynnBailey, 20 Apr 2012
  • Awhite97

    These are my grandparents :) This video is very sad to watch. I don't remember my Grandfather , but I know he was an amazing guy and a good cook :)My grandmother in this video passed away not to long ago .. she was a really great person and I miss her a lot , I still see all my aunts and uncles but not much since they live far from me ... This video mean's so much to me and I love watching it and seeing my great family <3

    Awhite97, 20 Apr 2012
  • cbailey

    i am the son of 1 of the kids i this movie and i want to no where to find the courage to change i really want to no the history of my family and i cant find it anywhere

    cbailey, 27 Feb 2012
  • Buttons

    This couple have such a love and respect for each other. This man loves his family so much, is so patient with the children no matter what is going on in his life. I hope that he and his wife found some relief, some joy for themselves and their children. They have such dignity and integrity within the difficulties of their lives and celebrate the new baby, even though it means more pressure to provide. Blessings to all of the children and their children forever.

    Buttons, 21 Feb 2012
  • bajangal

    Someone please tell me where i can find the second video to this, The Courage to Change?

    bajangal, 27 Jan 2012
  • Pictures

    I am the granddaughter of Kenny's sister. I do not know my Great Uncles children. My understanding is that this film has been a painful smear for our families for many years and, in ways, continues to be. Never having known of the film, I came across it at age 19 on television. It was a shock. My heart goes out to my kin as they age with this film in their past, created without their control or consent...Im sure it has been an extremely heavy and, at times, painful burden.

    Pictures, 20 Nov 2011
  • cinecritic

    Amazing to see this film again after so many years. We watched it at school around 1971 when I would have 11. It was enough to keep me from wanting to have children. Such utter misery. Some of the comments express pity for the father. I just felt sorry, scared and horrified for the children that were born to this poor ignorant couple who didn't equate too many children with poverty. Tragic.

    cinecritic, 27 Sep 2011
  • Anastasia

    wow this was sad to watch you can look in the husbands eyes of how much he wants to support his family and cant and while tryin to make a little living some jerk refused to pay him and winds up beatin him up, it was clear to see he was the victim all he wanted was his $6. It was not fair how all these witness was there and that criminal got away with beatin the poor man. It seems like history is still in our present cus people are still gettin wrongly accuse of crimes that they didnt commit.

    Anastasia, 4 Feb 2011
  • JBailey

    I am the 11th child born and was in the second movie "the Courage to Change".

    JBailey, 22 Oct 2010
  • HBailey1966

    This film is about my family. I'm the 10th child being born.

    HBailey1966, 6 Oct 2010
  • jmatlin

    Yes - the sequel was called Courage to Change.

    jmatlin, 7 Sep 2010
  • allseeingeye

    Wasn't there a sequel made? it is an excellent doc , one of the best!

    allseeingeye, 6 Sep 2010
  • Trig_Professor

    This is so sad how these people lived in Montreal back 1967. I was 11 yrs old when this took place and recall we went to Expo 67 that year. I am guessing this family never even went to Expo 67. Makes me want to cry! Poverty is a cancer in soceity

    Trig_Professor, 6 Jun 2010

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