Sandra Macdonald had been commissioner for five years, and during her mandate, all decisions taken by the NFB stemmed from the principles set forth in her action plan. Efforts were concentrated on one-off auteur documentaries and animation films, the type of production that had built the NFB’s reputation. Production capacity was preserved, with over 500 documentaries and a hundred animated films made since 1995. The policy for co-production with the independent sector was clear: It stipulated that in any project in which it participated, the NFB had to have a financial share that would ensure it had a real influence on content and production decisions.
The action plan also aimed for a quarter of the NFB’s annual production to consist of works by emerging filmmakers, particularly Aboriginals and visible minorities. And the results confirmed that its slate of films did reflect Canada’s cultural mosaic. In 2000, for instance, Unwanted Soldiers, Jari Osborne’s moving tribute to the heroism of Chinese-Canadian soldiers, received the Canada Award sponsored by the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Multiculturalism Program. Deep Inside Clint Star, in which Aboriginal director Clint Alberta and his friends talk about 500 years of oppression, received the Donald Brittain Award for best social/political documentary at the Geminis presented by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television.
In animation, artists were given the latitude they needed to make true auteur films recognized for their artistry. In January, When the Day Breaks by Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis won the Genie for best short film, and in February, their film and Torill Kove’s My Grandmother Ironed the King's Shirts were both in the running for an Oscar® for best animated short at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles.
At the end of May, in Ottawa, the Association of Professional Executives of the Public Service of Canada (APEX) presented its Leadership Award to NFB Chairperson Sandra Macdonald, for “leading the NFB through a revitalization which respected employees’ concerns while achieving significant cost-savings and increases in production and maintaining the Board’s tradition of excellence.”
The CineRoute pilot project entered a new phase. In partnership with CANARIE (Réseau canadien pour l’avancement de la recherche, de l’industrie et de l’enseignement), it now offered access to a selection of 800 NFB films digitized in MPEG-1 format and streamed at 30 frames/second to members of the CA*Net3 broadband network. An evaluation by an independent firm revealed that users greatly appreciated the transmission quality of the films. In a quest to improve the delivery of high-quality audiovisual images, the NFB started digitizing the collection in MPEG-2 format, to improve the image to near-broadcast quality. The CineRoute project was demonstrated at INPUT 2000, an international conference on innovative programming by public broadcasters, held in Halifax, and at Net 2000 in Ottawa.
The Boy Who Saw the Iceberg/Le garçon qui a vu l'iceberg by Paul Driessen won a Silver FIPA at the International Audiovisual Programme Festival in Biarritz, France. Driessen later received several more awards for the film, including a special international jury prize at the prestigious Hiroshima International Animation Festival in Japan in 2002. That same year, the director was honoured for his body of work by the World Festival of Animated Films, in Zagreb, Croatia.
Other animated films also won honours during the year. Through a Blue Lens by Veronica Alice Mannix received two major awards, including the Japan Prize, at the contest held by Japanese broadcaster NHK. Village of Idiots, a Yiddish folk tale adapted by Eugene Fedorenko and Rose Newlove, won a total of 19 awards, including the Genie for best animated short and the special jury prize at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival in June.
Mon oncle Antoine and Neighbours/Voisins were selected as MasterWorks by the Audiovisual Preservation Trust of Canada, which each year recognizes 12 Canadian classics from the archives of the Canadian film, radio, television and sound recording industries.
A particularly significant event in 2000 was the release of the first feature film in Inuktitut and directed entirely by Inuit filmmakers. Atanarjuat the Fast Runner, directed by Zacharias Kunuk and co-produced by Igloolik Isuma Productions and the NFB, is a remarkable adaptation of an ancient Inuit legend. Set in Igloolik, in Nunavut, the drama required painstaking research to accurately depict the Inuit way of life at the time. It was an enormous critical and popular success, winning the Caméra d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2001, as well as the Genie for achievement in direction and the Claude Jutra Award for best first feature drama.
Auteur documentaries often provoke discussion on important social issues. That was the case again this year with films such as Lina B. Moreco’s Mourir pour soi (Let Me Die), on the contentious issue of allowing terminally ill people to decide how and when to end their lives; Mort Ransen’s "Ah... the Money, the Money, the Money" - The Battle for Saltspring, on the Islanders’ opposition to clearcutting; Gordon McLennan’s In the Flesh, a frank documentary on transsexuality; and Gary Marcuse’s Nuclear Dynamite, on nuclear mega-projects and the environmental movement.
Inspired by Through a Blue Lens, a gritty documentary that gives drug addicts a voice to talk openly about who they are, Moira Simpson made an adaptation for the educational sector, Flipping the World - Drugs Through a Blue Lens, which won three Leo Awards, for best youth or children’s program or series, as well as best director and best screenwriter in that category.
Film can give new Canadians a chance to express their feelings about their adopted country and where they come from, as in Nicola Zavaglia’s Mediterraneo Sempre – Mediterranée pour toujours (Mediterranean Forever), or to reveal the cultural heritage they bring with them, as in Alastair Brown’s Tango in a Cold City and Hunt Hoe’s Who Is Albert Woo?
Films like Speakers for the Dead by Jennifer Holness and David Sutherland, Journey to Justice by Roger McTair, Raisin' Kane: A Rapumentary by Alison Duke and Black Soul/Âme noire by Martine Chartrand offer insight into the history and experience of people of colour. In Speakers for the Dead, in 1930s rural Ontario, a farmer had buried the tombstones of a Black cemetery under a pile of broken rocks to make way for a potato patch. Fifty years later, descendants of the original settlers, Black and White, come together to restore the cemetery.
Journey to Justice, focusing on the 1930s to 1950s, documents the struggle for Black civil rights, when a group of Canadians took racism to court. And even now, it’s not easy to get out of the ghetto; Raisin’ Kane follows the struggle faced by a group of young Black men and their hip-hop band Citizen Kane. Animation can also be used to convey the culture of a people. Black Soul/Âme noire is an exhilarating immersion into the heart of Black culture via a whirlwind voyage through the defining moments of Black history. It won the Golden Bear for best short film at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2001.
In Moving Pictures, director Colin Low, concerned by the portrayal of war and violence in pictures, traces the evolution of pictorial mass media. Haunted by the powerful images encountered during his 50-year film career, he reflects on history, events and people that shaped him since his youth.
Another veteran director, Jacques Godbout also explored memory in Traître ou patriote (Traitor or Patriot), musing about why his great-uncle Adélard Godbout, who served as Quebec premier from 1939 to 1944, had disappeared from the collective memory and was written out of the history books. An author as well as a filmmaker, Godbout was the ideal person to make the documentary Anne Hébert about the Quebec poet and novelist. The NFB co-production with Télé Images Création, France 3 and Studio Via le Monde inc. won the Telefilm Canada Award for best Canadian film at the International Festival of Films on Art, in Montreal.
On May 4, Marquise Lepage’s documentary Des marelles et des petites filles… (Of Hopscotch and Little Girls...), co-produced by Les Productions Virage inc. and the NFB, was awarded a special Grand Prize in recognition of its outstanding merit by the Communications et Société jury. In June, the Government of Canada and the Honourable Hedy Fry, Secretary of State for the Status of Women Canada, organized a screening of the film in New York at the United Nations General Assembly’s special session “Beijing 5, Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the 21st Century.” Since its launch, the film has won numerous awards, including three Gémeaux, the Golden Sheaf Award for best social documentary at the Yorkton Short Film and Video Festival, and the Prix du Valais and the Prix Jeunesse at the North-South Media Festival in Switzerland.
French Program launched its Libres courts collection, consisting of seven documentaries by seven young first-time directors: C’est comme ça – jeux, peines et paroles d’enfants, Mai en décembre (Godard en Abitibi), La loi et l’ordure, Mon père, Ojigkwanong – Rencontre avec un sage algonquin (Ojigkwanong - Encounter with an Algonquin Sage), Opération Dantec and www.six.lemondeestpetit.ca (www.sixdegreesoftogetherness.ca). They all underscored the truth of the six degrees of separation theory.
With the launch of the first specialty channels, including APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network), and more air time being given to NFB films on conventional networks, particularly in prime-time slots, the number of telecasts of NFB productions grew substantially. To further raise their visibility, the NFB entered into a partnership with Corus Entertainment, the CBC and four independent producers to establish The Canadian Documentary Channel to provide another window for English documentaries. Programming of the new network was officially launched on September 7, 2001 with two NFB hits: Cinéma Vérité: Defining the Moment and Manufacturing Consent - Noam Chomsky and the Media.
This being the age of the Internet, the NFB began an Electronic Rights Management System, a large-scale project for tracking rights for some 10,000 productions, stock shots, promotional materials and multimedia products, as well as musical compositions, since the NFB is also a music publisher. The ERMS would also enable the NFB to provide rights holders, authors and performers with all information on their works. Development of this innovative system was closely watched by other cultural organizations facing the same need to track all rights related to a product in the new context of Web publishing.
In October, a team of representatives of different sectors of the NFB began working on an integrated e-commerce system called Customer Relationship Management (CRM). The goal was to combine all aspects of online sales and marketing and improve orders and customer service operations by uniting these functions, reducing duplication and maximizing data sharing among the different sectors.
Commissioner Sandra Macdonald left the NFB in June. She was honoured by the Canadian Film and Television Production Association (CFTPA), which presented her with the prestigious Jack Chisholm Award for lifetime achievement.
Jacques Bensimon became the new Government Film Commissioner and NFB Chairman on June 18. The appointment was a homecoming for him, since he had previously spent several years with the NFB as a director, producer, head of the French Program programming committee and director of international distribution.
Thanks to the Canadian Content Online Program, and specifically the Memory Fund intended to make Canada’s rich cultural collections accessible to Canadians in English and French, the NFB was able to modernize its distribution by continuing with the digitization of its collection of 10,000 titles. Objectives for 2001-2004 included: providing access to digitized enrichment material and resources for young people and educators via Mediasphere; providing access to digitized excerpts of 7,000 NFB films; adding to the number of NFB titles available on CineRoute and expanding the CineRoute trial to 2,000 users.
The NFB launched a mentoring program for emerging filmmakers by offering master classes with acclaimed documentary and animation directors. The first such class featured Peter Watkins, director of the critically acclaimed film La Commune and subject of the NFB production L’Horloge universelle – La résistance de Peter Watkins (The Universal Clock - The Resistance of Peter Watkins), directed by Geoff Bowie. This was followed by two more master classes, one by Jean-François Jung, who directed Ce que dit la bouche d’ombre at the NFB in co-production with ARTE France, and another class by the NFB’s own Paul Cowan with his Genie Award-winning film Westray, about the coal mine disaster that killed 26 men in Nova Scotia on May 9, 1992.
Another series of master classes was organized for 2002. The first was held in April as part of the Vues d’Afrique festival, with the African filmmaker Fanta Régina Nacro. Christopher Hinton then gave a master class in animation at the Ottawa International Animation Festival. In September, Atlantic Film Festival attendees benefited from the experience of documentary director Alanis Obomsawin, who gave a master class on image and sound and the ethics of listening. She repeated her talk in October at the Calgary International Film Festival, where director Colin Low also gave a master class on new technologies and the evolution of large-screen filmmaking. Director of photography Michel La Veaux shared his love of the craft with young filmmakers in Vancouver in February 2003 and again in Moncton a few days later.
Several long-time NFB filmmakers were honoured in various ways during the year. Alanis Obomsawin received the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts and was also the first recipient of the Dr Bernard Chagnan Assiniwi Award for lifetime achievement, presented at the First Peoples’ Festival in Montreal. The Albert-Tessier Prize, Quebec’s highest honour in cinema, once again went to an NFB alumnus, animation pioneer René Jodoin, while Anne Claire Poirier received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award and the Jutra Hommage recognizing her outstanding contribution to Quebec cinema.
At the International Audiovisual Programme Festival (FIPA) in Biarritz, France, the NFB received an honorary Euro FIPA in recognition of its outstanding body of work and its ongoing commitment to an ideal of excellence and innovation.
This year again, the NFB addressed major issues in its documentaries. In Drug Deals: The Brave New World of Prescription Drugs, directors Elise Swerhone and Erna Buffie examine the benefits of medical research and the problems when drugs are marketed prematurely. Two other films were about agricultural policy. In Quelque chose dans l’air... (Something in the Air), Sylvie Dauphinais looks at the high rate of respiratory illness on Prince Edward Island resulting from the huge increase in pesticide use, while in Bacon, le film (Bacon, the Film), Hugo Latulippe takes the NFB back to its activist heyday, denouncing the surging Quebec pork industry and its impact on the environment. By the time the film aired on Télé-Québec in November, it had stirred up as much controversy as Richard Desjardins’ and Robert Monderie’s film L’erreur boréale (Forest Alert) in 1999.
Nevertheless, director Fernand Dansereau offers Quelques raisons d’espérer (An Ecology of Hope) in his profile of his brother Pierre Dansereau, ecologist, visionary and inveterate optimist who believes that while the environment is threatened by human beings, it will also be saved by humans. The film takes viewers on a mini world tour from Baffin Island to New York, and from the Gaspé Peninsula to Brazil, retracing the highlights of a long and productive life.
With countless people fleeing their homelands to seek a better life, exile had become one of the most common experiences of the last century. In My Mother's Village, John Paskievich draws upon his own experience as the child of a refugee to explore the effects of exile and memory on the human spirit. Linda Ohama, for her part, asked 103-year-old Asayo Murakami to recall life in Japan, her arrival in Canada in 1923 as a “picture bride,” her determination to marry a man of her choice, the bombing of Hiroshima, and the forced relocation of her family during the Second World War. The result was the very touching film Obachan's Garden.
English Program added three films to its Talespinners collection for children age 5 to 9. Adapted from books, these animated shorts are each based on an acclaimed cross-cultural children’s story and engage young viewers with appealing characters and dynamic storylines. In 2001, in The Magic of Anansi, they met a spider tired of being looked down on by all the other animals; in Christopher, Please Clean Up Your Room!, they learned a lesson about tidiness from a very messy kid; and in Lights for Gita, they were dazzled by a beautiful festival.
With the Internet becoming more and more important for the NFB, directors tried their hand at this new medium by making original Web productions or creating Web material to support a film. For example, from April 20 to 22, seven directors, under the direction of Magnus Isacsson, were onsite capturing behind-the-scenes action at the Summit of the Americas in Québec City. Co-produced by Les Productions Érézi and the NFB’s English and French Programs, the documentary View from the Summit follows activists and observers from Canada, the United States, Peru and Brazil. The public could also log onto a daily Web diary for an inside look at the filmmaking process.
Having lost an eye during childhood, director Denys Desjardins embarked on a futuristic quest to be implanted with an artificial eye, and created a multi-platform interactive adventure around the experience: the documentary film Mon œil pour une caméra, the webzine Le Cine-Œil, leading up to the presentation of the documentary on the Internet – the NFB’s first-ever public webcast – culminating in broadcast of the documentary on Télé-Québec.
The critically acclaimed Salt was presented on the Web and on the big screen during International Women’s Week. Directed by four young women from a Montreal high school, the four-part filmzine takes a fresh look at youth culture from the inside.
The NFB’s Web site was restructured to highlight the online stores and Animation and Documentary portals. A number of sections promoting NFB films and activities proved highly successful. In all, over 50 new sections were launched during the year and several large-scale projects were developed specifically for the Web. These included original productions such as the animated short Being Ben and entertaining and educational sections for children, such as Ludovic, a captivating multimedia experience for preschoolers, and The Mission, in which animated hosts introduce preteens to scientific discoveries, interactive games and quizzes.
In January, Commissioner Jacques Bensimon submitted his Strategic Plan for 2002-2006 to the Board of Trustees, who approved it. The NFB’s goals for this period were set forth as follows: to define and position the NFB in its essential role in the Canadian audiovisual landscape in the context of a new global reality; to connect Canadians with the NFB of today and its audiovisual legacy; to make the NFB a more relevant reflection of Canadian society; to confirm the NFB’s role as an incubator of creative excellence and innovation; to maintain and nurture the NFB’s human capital; and to demonstrably increase the NFB’s return on investment.
To help it play a leading role in the international public sector, the NFB created the International Co-production Unit (ICU) to make optimum use of its financial, technical and creative resources and undertake large-scale projects. Framework agreements for the development and co-production of audiovisual programs were concluded with partners such as INA France (Institut national de l’audiovisuel), ARTE, Film Australia and Lark International, a consortium of four PBS stations in the United States. Under these agreements, the ICU would take an active role in the various phases of production, from concept, editorial line and financial structure to production, distribution and exhibition. An added advantage was that NFB productions would have access to foreign broadcasters. During the year, the ICU was involved in a score of co-production projects, totalling close to $27 million. The unit was merged into the English and French Programs’ regular operations in December 2005.
The NFB initiated and signed an agreement with the UK Film Council and the BBC for the creation of the World Documentary Fund to support the production of feature-length documentaries for theatrical release. Two co-productions were undertaken with the support of the fund: Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine, about the chess tournament between Garry Kasparov and the computer Deep Blue, and Diameter of the Bomb, about the suicide bombing of Bus 32 in Jerusalem in June 2002.
To strengthen its brand image, the NFB logo had been modified several times over the years. The latest version, designed by Paprika Communications, made its debut on the cover of the NFB’s 2001-2002 annual report. Paprika was also responsible for the graphic design of the report, for which it won the 2003 Grafika Grand Prix in the annual report category, as well as an award of excellence and a judge’s choice award at the prestigious Graphex’03 national design competition. The animated version of the logo, appearing at the start of all NFB productions, was created by award-winning directors Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis.
In November, the NFB inaugurated its Toronto Mediatheque, a state-of-the-art storefront offering the public an interactive window onto Canadian culture and cinema, with digital viewing stations for on-demand viewing of NFB shorts and feature films, a theatre, a conference room and a multifunctional space for animation workshops and other activities.
Cordell Barker, director of the much-loved classic The Cat Came Back, received his second Oscar® nomination for his animated short Strange Invaders, a irrepressible comedy about a strange child who wreaks havoc on a couple’s quiet life. The film won 16 awards, including a special prize at the Hiroshima International Animation Festival in Japan.
Two other veteran animators also had hit films. Christopher Hinton’s Flux, a whimsical piece about life, entropy and the inexorable march of time and its effect on two generations of a family, won 11 awards, including the FIPRESCI Award at the International Animation Film Festival in Annecy, France, while John Weldon’s The Hungry Squid, about a little girl and her amusing misadventures with animals, received five awards, including the Genie for best animated short.
Two of the Strategic Plan objectives – to make the NFB a more relevant reflection of Canadian society, and to confirm the NFB’s role as an incubator of creative excellence and innovation – were the focus of this year’s production. This orientation effectively guided English and French Programs’ initiatives, since the vast majority of their films were made by new directors or directors from cultural communities or visible minorities, and the subjects addressed concerned Canada’s broad cultural mosaic.
English Program’s Reel Diversity competition was extended from a regional competition to a Canada-wide event, giving emerging filmmakers of colour from across the country an opportunity to produce documentaries for broadcast on CBC Newsworld. French Program’s Nouveaux regards, a similar competition for visible minority francophones, welcomed three new directors in May 2002.
Other initiatives were also established to help emerging directors: the Hothouse project giving young directors a chance to make an animated short in the English animation studio, the Picture This documentary short competition held in cooperation with BC Film, and the Momentum pilot program offering a novel way to produce high-quality, low-budget films.
A number of emerging filmmakers made remarkable documentaries in French Program. In addition to Elisapie Isaac’s Si le temps le permet (If the Weather Permits), made as part of the Cinéaste autochtone program, Dan Bigras directed Le ring intérieur (The Ring Within), about men who channel their anger into martial arts or extreme fighting. Bruno Boulianne continued to hone his skills with a second work, entitled Des hommes de passage (Doing Time). Karina Goma and Stéphane Thibault co-directed Les Justes (The Righteous) and Paul Bossé directed Kacho Komplo, both first films.
There were also five animated shorts by first-time directors: Rumors/Rumeurs by Groupe Kiwistiti, The Brainwashers/Les ramoneurs cérébraux cérébraux by Patrick Bouchard, Antagonia by Nicolas Brault, Fragrant Light/Parfum de lumière by Serge Clément, and Stormy Night by Michèle Lemieux.
In English Program several first works were made by filmmakers from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Bollywood Bound by Nisha Pahuja looks at India’s film industry; Earth to Mouth, by Yung Chang, zeroes in on Asian vegetable farming; Andrew Faiz’s Flemingdon Park: The Global Village offers a view of a subsidized housing project, home to refugees and immigrants; Joe, by Jill Haras, is a portrait of Seraphim “Joe” Fortes, an artist from Barbados; The Journey of Lesra Martin, by Cheryl Foggo, focuses on an illiterate young man who played a key role in the liberation of boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter; A License to Remember: Je me souviens, by Thierry Le Brun, muses on the significance of the motto on Quebec licence plates; Alison Reiko Loader’s Showa Shinzan is an animated short set in Japan; and Atif Siddiqi plays himself in Solo.
Two films dealt with the same thorny topic, the conflict between non-Native Acadians and the Mi’gmaq people of Burnt Church, New Brunswick. Ceux qui attendent, by Herménégilde Chiasson, gives a voice to those directly affected by the events and helps viewers understand what separates as well as unites the two communities, while the renowned filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin casts her cinematic nets into history to provide a context for the conflict in Is the Crown at war with us?
The hectic life of adults who have to split their time between family and work was the theme of Sylvie Groulx’s very timely film L’Homme trop pressé prend son thé à la fourchette (The Hasty Man Drinks His Tea with a Fork). In an amusing animated short called Fair Phyllis, Beth Portman celebrates the resiliency and resourcefulness of the female sex, while in Life with Dad, a film that raises interesting questions about fatherhood and family, Ray Harper looks at the growing phenomenon of child-raising by single men.
With ecology such a burning issue, director Iolande Cadrin-Rossignol turned to astrophysicist Hubert Reeves, a well-known figure in the international scientific community. In Hubert Reeves : conteur d’étoiles (Hubert Reeves: Star Teller), he warns about the accelerating destruction of the planet, saying that it is up to humankind to ensure the Earth is inhabitable for future generations.
There was a lot of activity on the NFB Web site. Mediasphere, the online resource for using NFB films in the classroom, added two interactive media projects: The Cyber-Terrorism Crisis and Contemporary Canada. Eight more scientific quests were also added to The Mission, while a new section, Ultrabug Cliposcope, based on the EzToons game engine developed by the Québec City firm of Sabarkan, encouraged children to create their own animation. In 2003, these two sections tied for the MIM d’or award at the Marché international du multimédia de Montréal.
In July, the NFB created the Cultural Diversity Alliance (CDA), bringing together the heads of Canadian Heritage portfolio agencies to share skills, resources and best practices with regard to cultural diversity and to undertake joint initiatives.
Also in July, the NFB established an Advisory Council to advise the commissioner on implementing the Strategic Plan and on ways the NFB could best fulfill its role in the public and private sectors. The Council consisted of nine influential figures in the film and related industries, chosen to provide an external point of view and form an important bridge to key communities. It met twice during the year.
The 30th anniversary of the Aide au cinéma indépendent – Canada (ACIC) program took place this year. It was created by French Program in 1973, under the name of Aide artisanale au cinéma et à la formation, to provide support for independent filmmakers with particularly innovative projects. Three events highlighted the program’s contribution over the years. The first was a tribute held during a workshop at the Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois in February; the second took place at the Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal in the fall; and the third consisted of three days of films made with ACIC assistance that screened free of charge at NFB Montreal in December. English Program also had a long-running equivalent, the Filmmaker Assistance Program (FAP), created in 1980.
Many films this year attested to the NFB’s enhanced focus on programming that explored social and political issues. The five documentaries in the Mission Arctique (Arctic Mission) series initiated by Jean Lemire to alert people to the impact of global warming were an enormous hit in theatres and on television. The crew of Sedna IV spent six months sailing through the Arctic archipelago studying this fragile environment so affected by climate change. Filming for the series became an interactive virtual adventure between the members of the expedition and visitors to the Mission Arctique (Arctic Mission) Web site. There was also an educational component, with programs designed specially for schools. The films screened at the 9th Kyoto Protocol Conference of the Parties (CoP-9), an international meeting that brought together some 3,000 experts from governments and environmental organizations. One of the films in the series, Les seigneurs de l’Arctique (Lords of the Arctic), received the Earthwatch Award at the Environmental Film Festival in Washington, the highest distinction for any environmental film.
In Crapshoot: The Gamble with Our Wastes, filmed in Italy, India, Sweden, the United States and Canada, Jeff McKay explored another environmental issue of widespread concern: the discharge of toxic waste into sewers. Young filmmakers, too, showed concern for the environment, as in the short film System Error, Anouk Préfontaine’s scathing criticism of water privatization.
NFB films also raised public awareness of social issues. Craig Chivers’s No Place Called Home relates a large family’s difficulties in finding decent, affordable housing, while Teresa MacInnes’s Teaching Peace: In a Time of War features a peace organization established by a mother whose son died as the result of a bullying incident at school. Society was radically changing, and those changes were affecting relations between men and women. Katherine Gilday probes the issue in her provocative documentary Women and Men Unglued, an uncensored look at single, urban Gen-Xers. Stéphane Drolet’s DVD Community Mediation: Two Real-Life Experiences follows two community mediation pilot projects focusing on a dynamic approach to conflict resolution.
Two other documentaries, Gil Cardinal’s Totem: The Return of the G'psgolox Pole and Loretta Sarah Todd’s Kainayssini Imanistaisiwa: The People Go On, provoked lively debate about the place and role of Canada’s Aboriginal communities. Discussion evenings on the repatriation of Aboriginal artefacts currently in museums and galleries were held in partnership with the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the National Gallery of Canada and the First Nations House of Learning. Alanis Obomsawin, as engaged as ever, highlighted Aboriginal peoples’ determination to manage the natural resources on their land in her film Our Nationhood.
Other films of 2003 travelled abroad: In La Cueca Sola, Marilù Mallet returns to her native Chile, where partnerless women perform a solitary dance in memory of the thousands of men who were killed or who disappeared following the 1973 coup. In The World Stopped Watching, a sequel to his 1988 documentary The World is Watching, Peter Raymont returns to Nicaragua, determined to discover what had become of a country no longer in the glare of the world’s media. The film was selected by a number of festivals and won an honourable mention in the war and peace category at the Columbus International Film and Video Festival, in Worthington, U.S.A., as well as two special mentions at the International Audiovisual Programme Festival (FIPA) in Biarritz, France.
Canadian politics were also a focus of questioning and debate. In Les héritiers du mouton noir (The Black Sheep - Ten Years Later), Jacques Godbout meets up again with participants in his 1992 film Le mouton noir (The Black Sheep) to see how these idealists of yesteryear envisage Quebec in the 21st century. Politics were also discussed on the Parole citoyenne section of the NFB Web site. Launched in September, this forum for citizen participation, in the spirit of the 1960s groundbreaking Challenge for Change/Société nouvelle program, invites filmmakers, experts in various fields and the general public to exchange views on a wide range of subjects, from citizenship in the 21st century to homosexuality, children and the educational system.
Another gathering place, the largest open-air public market in North America, was featured in Marché Jean-Talon. For six months, Jean-Philippe Duval and Hélène Choquette filmed the warm, authentic people in this colourful world, a metaphor for the new multicultural face of Quebec. The six-part series received two Gémeaux prizes: the multiculturalism award and the award for best documentary series. Jean-Daniel Lafond also picked up a Gémeaux for best cultural documentary with Le cabinet du docteur Ferron (The Cabinet of Doctor Ferron), his profile of Rhinoceros Party founder Jacques Ferron, a celebrated writer, political gadfly and humanist with a profound commitment to social and political justice.
In multimedia, two series – English Program’s Webworks and French Program’s Cinéweb ONF – gave emerging filmmakers a chance to make innovative, low-cost animated films for the Web on serious or amusing topics. The crop for 2003 included Flip by Luigi Allemano, Mémoire by Catherine Lafortune, Mount Real by David Abu Bacha and James Richards, Pulse by Marie Renaud and Whiskey Oblivion by Paul Morstad.
The NFB assumed responsibility for hosting Silence, on court!, the short film Web platform begun at Radio-Canada. The only French-language platform of its type in Canada, it provided access to over 250 original films and webzines, racking up over 200,000 online screenings a year and steadily growing in popularity.
The MADIS research project was successfully completed. This test bed for MPEG-7 audiovisual document indexation research was created in partnership with the Centre de recherche informatique de Montréal (CRIM) and McGill University, with financial assistance from CANARIE. The goal was to improve the audiovisual indexing of NFB films so they could be searched and retrieved by content cues like facial recognition, movement, voice recognition and semantic groupings. A paper outlining the experimental process and project results was presented at Internet Imaging V, an international conference held in January by the International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE) in San Jose, California.
With DVDcopy, the NFB undertook Phase I of an open-ended, flexible model for an automated, on-demand DVD production system tailored to NFB needs. Phase II would include closed captioning of films dating back to 1990, and eventually Dolby 5.1 soundtracks for recent titles.
In the area of production technologies, the NFB innovated with the stereoscopic animated short June, presented as a 3D installation in collaboration with the Art Gallery of Ontario. The director, Munro Ferguson, used SANDDE, a revolutionary animation technology developed by IMAX Corporation enabling animators to draw in space with a wand. June was a new art form halfway between drawing and sculpture, with the addition of motion and sound. It could also be considered new media since the work was created and delivered digitally.
In the 2004-2005 annual report, Commissioner Jacques Bensimon’s message was a veritable plea to the government for an increase in the National Film Board’s budget. Since 1995, the NFB’s funding had declined by 32%, compared to a 6% decrease for Telefilm Canada and 18% for CBC/Radio-Canada in the same period.
The NFB does give a voice to the next generation, through programs such as Hothouse and Momentum, providing young artists with the creative environment needed to nurture their talent. The NFB also combined its efforts with those of other like-minded organizations, as in the Spark initiative and the First Stories project. This collaborative project, established by the NFB’s English Program in partnership with CBC, Film Manitoba and Telefilm, enabled 15 young Aboriginal filmmakers from Manitoba to take part in an intensive week of hands-on documentary workshops
In British Columbia, Our City, Our Voices opened new horizons for young Aboriginal filmmakers, their communities and their city. And in Quebec, the Wapikoni Mobile studio, created by filmmaker Manon Barbeau of Les Productions des Beaux jours in conjunction with the NFB, travelled to different Atikamekw, Anishinabe and Montagnais communities to give young Aboriginals a chance to learn new digital technologies and make their very first films in order to share visions of their world. The success of the Wapikoni Mobile quickly led to Vidéo Paradiso, its urban counterpart for street kids in Montreal and Québec City.
Along with all these mentoring efforts, the NFB had to explore the new possibilities offered by e-cinema, digitization of images for the Internet and the rapid proliferation of satellite and telephone technology as a means of reaching people. At a time when the U.S. majors had a tighter hold than ever on distribution, Canada needed a digital network to assert its cultural identity. With Daniel Langlois, the NFB had begun laying the groundwork for e-cinema that would enable Canada to join countries like Great Britain, Ireland, China and Brazil, already well down the road to digital distribution. However, due to a lack of financial resources, progress was slower than desired. While waiting until it had the necessary funds to establish a digital network, but ensuring it would be ready when it did, the NFB started producing films in high definition and distributing its works on DVD.
In April, in cooperation with Telefilm Canada, the NFB held the first Documentary Policy Summit at the Hot Docs festival in Toronto. At that time, it was decided to undertake an ambitious research program to better ascertain the place and performance of the documentary in Canada. The program would examine various issues, including economic performance, funding and audiences, and the findings would be presented at the 2nd Doc Policy Summit, in April 2005.
In May, four NFB films represented Canada at Cannes, including François Prévost and Hugo Latulippe’s controversial documentary Ce qu’il reste de nous (What Remains of Us), which generated intense debate on its release. Filmed in Tibet, the documentary captures the Tibetan people’s reaction to a message of hope from the Dalai Lama that, unknown to the Chinese authorities, had been brought into the country on a small portable video player.
Two NFB shorts nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also attracted much attention, though of a different kind. In Hardwood, director Hubert Davis, son of former Harlem Globetrotter Mel Davis, explores how his father’s choices affected his own life. Chris Landreth’s film, Ryan, is based on the life of Ryan Larkin, who had made some of the most influential animated films of his time while working as an animator at the NFB 30 years previously. In only a few months, the film cornered over 40 awards in Canadian and international festivals, including the Oscar® for best animated short – the NFB’s 11th Oscar®.
The Quebec audiovisual industry recognized the NFB’s significant contribution to the growing popularity of documentary by awarding the title of personality of the year (cinema category) to Commissioner Jacques Bensimon and the French Program documentary team.
Awards were also won by three sections of the NFB Web site. Mission Arctique (Arctic Mission) received the Gémeaux for best Internet site, while at the Boomerang Awards presented by Les Éditions Info-presse, Perpetual Motions/Engrenage won the grand prize and another award in the art and culture category, while the Coucou site received a Boomerang award in the youth category.
In December, the International Documentary Association presented Alanis Obomsawin with its Pioneer Award in honour of her contribution to advancing the art of the documentary. William Greaves, a director who learned his craft with the NFB’s cinéma vérité team, also received a Career Lifetime Achievement Award at the same memorable event.
The NFB, which is a bilingual institution, received an honourable mention from Quebec’s Office de la langue française for its noteworthy contribution to the promotion of French by developing a style guide for its employees writing in that language.
Eighty-five per cent of the year’s production focused on major social issues. Zéro tolérance (Zero Tolerance), Michka Saäl’s hard-hitting documentary on relations between the police and minority groups in Montreal, provoked strong reactions when it screened during Action Week Against Racism and on its theatrical release. Foreign politics often have repercussions in Canada. When Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled appearance at Concordia University in Montreal in September 2002 sparked heated debate, Ben Addelman and Samir Mallal documented the fallout. The resulting film, Discordia, presents a unique look at the conflict between Israel and Palestine and was shown at 17 Canadian universities and in alternative theatres, giving rise to much discussion and debate.
Another documentary that elicited a strong reaction from the public and the medical community was Lina B. Moreco’s Médecine sous influence (Medicine Under the Influence), about the tragic effects of life-sustaining medical treatment on premature babies. Through the courageous testimony of a handful of doctors and therapists as well as the shocking stories told by devoted parents of disabled children, the film denounces the lack of support offered to science’s “little miracles,” who are more or less left to their fate once they leave the hospital.
Another health-related issue was the focus of Glynis Whiting’s documentary The Weight of the World. The film was associated with a challenge to lose weight, which struck a chord among teachers and students. Using a specially designed DVD kit and Web site, kids registered to participate in the challenge and set off to discover the dietary world through a practical analysis of their everyday lives, with often astonishing results. Over 255 schools participated, with no fewer than 46,000 students taking the challenge.
The documentary The Ties That Bind was also supported by a Web site for the year preceding its release, creating a veritable community around two crucial questions: What happens when a young adult with serious disabilities wants to leave home and live more independently? And how should the parents plan the transition?
Velcrow Ripper asked another question: Can we take the trials of extreme historical situations and transform them into a force of awakening? Journeying to the pivotal ground zeros of the world, he discovered stories of hope, transformation and resilience. His feature documentary ScaredSacred was ranked among the top 10 Canadian films of the year by the Toronto International Film Festival’s national panel.
The prestigious Canada Award at the Geminis went to Anand Ramayya’s Cosmic Current, the story of Penumaka Dasaratha Ramayya, also known as Ray, Jay Ran, Ramu and Dad. The film’s cross-cultural journey shows how this unique director became who he is and how he developed his singular approach to filmmaking and life.
In another cross-cultural experience, recorded in Les Élias et les Petrov… pendant sept ans, Yves Dion follows two immigrant families, the Éliases from Guatemala and the Petrovs from Bosnia, as they settle into their new lives in Sherbrooke, Quebec. As their adopted homeland debates its future in the 1995 referendum, these refugees who fled war and dictatorship again find themselves in an uncertain situation.
For their traditions and cultures to flourish, Aboriginals must preserve their knowledge and reappropriate their history. The NFB’s focus on young Aboriginal and Inuit filmmakers produced impressive results in 2004. In Inuuvunga – Je suis Inuk. Je suis vivant (Inuuvunga - I Am Inuk, I Am Alive), eight young Inuit, supervised by three experienced filmmakers, appear on camera several months before the end of high school to talk about themselves, offering a contemporary picture of life in Canada’s North.
Two Worlds Colliding tells the painful story of several Aboriginal men abandoned by the police in -20° C temperatures in a barren field on the outskirts of Saskatoon and the deep tensions that mark relations between the white and Aboriginal communities.
In Being Caribou, ecologist Leanne Allison and wildlife biologist Karsten Heuer follow a herd of 120,000 caribou on foot across 1,500 kilometres of Arctic tundra. At stake is the herd’s delicate habitat, which could be devastated if proposed oil and gas development goes ahead in the herd’s calving grounds in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Caribou Kayak documents the traditional way that the Innu built kayaks to hunt caribou, techniques that only two elders still know.
Through These Eyes examines a series of educational films on the Pelly Bay Netsilik Inuit that were co-produced with a U.S. agency in the 1960s but promptly withdrawn from American schools and scrutinized by a senatorial committee, ostensibly because of the clash of values presented in the films. Healing at Lac Ste. Anne focuses on the biggest Aboriginal pilgrimage in North America, which takes place each year in Northern Alberta and attracts over 40,000 people.
In Histoire de sable (Tales of Sand and Snow), Hyacinthe Combary, who immigrated to Quebec from Burkina Faso, builds a bridge between the Atikamekw people of Quebec, whose animist traditions he explores, and the Gourmantchés, his own ethnic group. Filmmakers like Tahani Rached, who made Soraida, une femme de Palestine (Soraida, a Woman of Palestine), and Hagop Goudsouzian, director of Mon fils sera arménien (My Son Shall Be Armenian), also opened a window onto the world.
Animated films were enjoying a popular revival and were greatly appreciated at festivals. Michèle Cournoyer’s Accordion/Accordéon was the only Canadian film in official competition at Cannes, though Georges Schwizgebel’s L'homme sans ombre screened as well. At the Hiroshima International Animation Festival, Louise, by Anita Lebeau, received the prestigious Hiroshima Award, while Michèle Lemieux’s Stormy Night picked up 10 awards at as many festivals in Canada, the U.S., Korea and Japan.
The NFB’s Web site was playing an important role. User sessions had increased by 25% during the year, and the Parole citoyenne section and its English equivalent, CitizenShift, launched in the fall of 2004, had become very lively forums for dialogue and debate. The Perpetual Motions/Engrenage section showcasing the works of young animators won the 2004 Boomerang Grand Prix for best interactive multimedia site in Quebec.
The second Documentary Policy Summit took place on April 25, organized by the NFB, Telefilm Canada and the Canadian Television Fund. The event drew over 110 documentary filmmakers, programming directors, policy makers and distributors, who established the framework for an action plan to harmonize the programs and policies for Canadian documentary production. There was widespread consensus in a number of areas: creation of a documentary production and theatre distribution fund, as well as harmonization of project submission deadlines, approval criteria and requirements to make life simpler for producers while ensuring that objectives are consistent.
Discussions about the action plan continued at the Banff Television Festival in June. Also at Banff, the NFB and Documentary Channel announced a new NFB/Documentary Channel fund, each partner investing $400,000 to produce feature documentaries for theatrical release.
The year saw a real turning point for the Film Board in digital platform productions, so much so that the Cannes Film Festival called the NFB a world leader in the field. For Shorts in Motion, a partnership with Bravo!FACT, CHUM Television, four filmmakers made ten micro-movies for mobile phones. Two of them, I'm Sorry and Phone Call from Imaginary Girlfriends, were nominated for best content at the MIPCOM 2005 Mobile TV Awards.
In partnership with the BBC and the Korean Broadcasting Commission, the NFB also put a call out for animation for mobile platforms as part of Content 360, a new international competition organized by MIPTV featuring MILIA, the world’s largest audiovisual and digital content market, and the venue where finalists would showcase their work.
Summer saw In Vivo, a Web-based Canada-wide animation competition organized by the NFB and private-sector partners, with 4,700 Internet users voting for their favourite film. The winner was Olivier Breton, who travelled to the Aichi World Fair in Japan with his film, Wisdom of Diversity/Sagesse de la diversité, which screened along other finalists at the Canada Pavilion.
New distribution platforms also served to connect youngsters with the past. The NFB’s competition Faites des courts, pas la guerre (“make shorts, not war”) attracted nearly 300 young people who were invited to make a short film with a message of peace, utilizing First World War archival material from the NFB site Images of a Forgotten War, posted online through the resources of the Memory Fund of Canadian Heritage.
Professional development initiatives and competitions by the NFB – alone or with public- and private-sector partners – proved popular. They also resulted in outstanding works. These programs are vital to encouraging emerging filmmakers, especially Aboriginal youth and young artists from culturally diverse communities. In 2005, a wealth of projects helped boost filmmaking among the largest possible number of Canadian artists: Momentum, First Stories, Hothouse, the Interdepartmental Partnership with the Official-Language Communities (IPOLC) between the NFB and Canadian Heritage, Doc Shop workshops, the Our City, Our Voices project, as well as master classes by Jacques Drouin and Paul Cowan.
Though the International Co-Production Unit continued to face difficulties, such as working with partners in different time zones, a number of projects came to fruition.
Le dernier trappeur (The Last Trapper), a co-production with MC4 and TF1 (France), Pandora Film Produktion (Germany), Mikado (Italy) and Productions Jean-Marc Henchoz SA (Switzerland), met with resounding box-office success in France, with 2.2 million tickets sold. Launched in 2005, War Hospital was just one of many projects from the increasingly close links between the NFB and the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK).
Diameter of the Bomb came about through work with the UK Film Council and the BBC, while Les prisonniers de Beckett (Prisoners of Beckett) would never have seen the light of day without the concerted efforts of the NFB, Quatre par Quatre Films and French partners A.D.R. Productions. The five high-definition films in the remarkable series Miracle Planet were another result of the NFB/NHK partnership.
Tabac, la conspiration (The Tobacco Conspiracy) travelled three continents to reveal how industry giants conquer their markets. Co-produced with 13 Productions and Arte France, They Chose China explored the little-known story of 21 U.S. soldiers who decided to stay in China at the end of the Korean War. Tragic Story with Happy Ending, made by Regina Pessoa using a special etching technique, was co-produced by the NFB, Europe’s Folimage and Ciclope Filmes, along with a host of partners including France’s Ministry of Culture, Arte France and the Centre national de la cinématographie.
Many filmmakers trained their cameras on the bumpy road of adolescence and the beginning of adulthood. For Histoire d’être humain (Being Human), Denys Desjardins spent a year documenting life at a high school in the disadvantaged Montreal neighbourhood of Saint-Henri. In Le méchant trip (Exiles in Lotusland), Ilan Saragosti accompanied two street kids travelling between Montreal and Vancouver, while Elizabeth St. Philip filmed three young women pursuing fame in Breakin' In: The Making of a Hip Hop Dancer. A Jutra Award winner for best feature by a first-time director, Maryse Legagneur’s Au nom de la mère et du fils (In the Name of the Mother and the Son) painted a picture of the Saint-Michel neighbourhood in Montreal, following two young people of Haitian origin in their quest for hope and freedom.
Children ages 9 to 12 and their teachers enthusiastically took to the series I Can Make Art, consisting of six short films examining techniques used by world-renowned Canadian artists, including Emily Carr, Marcelle Ferron and Ron Noganosh. The NFB Web site offered teachers and parents activities so that kids could try out these techniques for themselves and also provided resource links for more info.
Filmmakers from cultural communities made their mark at the NFB: German Gutiérrez won the audience prize at the Festival du nouveau cinéma in Montreal with Qui a tiré sur mon frère? (Who Shot My Brother?), a political documentary exploring the assassination of the filmmaker’s own brother, activist Oscar Gutiérrez, in his native Colombia. In Vendetta Song, Eylem Kaftan, a young Turkish-Canadian filmmaker, tracked the murderers of her aunt, who thirty years earlier had refused the man chosen to be her second husband. In Me and the Mosque, Zarqa Nawaz looked at the space set aside for women in North American mosques, while Sanjay Talreja’s Cricket and the Meaning of Life revealed the quasi-secret world of Asian and West Indian cricket players in Toronto.
The year’s crop also confirmed the vitality of Aboriginal filmmaking: cinema pioneer Alanis Obomsawin’s Sigwan is a touching story of a girl comforted and counselled by forest animals; Tracey Deer’s Mohawk Girls takes us inside the lives of three teenage girls torn between their ties to their community and their desire to break free. In My Father, My Teacher by Ken Malenstyn and Dennis Allen, conversations between Allen and his father reveal the complex ties and tensions involved in passing on Inuvialuit traditions. In The Gift of Diabetes, O. Brion Whitford show us how a disease endemic in Native communities prompted him to return to his cultural roots and regain control over his life – with Whitford and co-director John Paskievich receiving several awards, including the Best Public Service Award at San Francisco’s American Indian Film Festival in November.
New computerized tools encouraged groundbreaking animation. Marv Newland’s film without words Tête à Tête à Tête delivered a message about conflict resolution in a way everyone can understand. Patrick Bouchard set poignant images to the tragic story Dehors novembre from a song by former Quebec group Les Colocs. Theodore Ushev’s Tower Bawher was a wild ride through Russian constructivism, an important chapter in modern art. Produced with the participation of the Canadian Labour Congress and the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development, Invasion of the Space Lobsters by Janet Perlman took a humorous look at bureaucratic and political mumbo-jumbo, while Mind Me Good Now! by Chris Cormier and Derek Cummings offered a Caribbean take on Hansel and Gretel.
2005 also saw the emergence of a new trend, where people would invite friends and neighbours over to watch NFB films in their living rooms. Modelled on book clubs and made possible by the introduction of digital technology and home theatre systems, this idea was promoted by the NFB Film Club. Boasting a membership of over 32,000 people – 64% anglophone and 36% francophone – the NFB Film Club forged ties between the NFB and communities across Canada, with its Focus newsletter updating members about NFB films and activities, with launches and screenings in every corner of the country.
With 2006 the 65th anniversary of animation at the NFB, the Film Board had the perfect opportunity to reacquaint the world with the films of the great Norman McLaren, founder of the NFB’s first animation studio. A completely remastered compilation of 13 of his works – which had garnered a total of 72 international awards – was presented at the Cannes Film Festival, where animation took centre stage in the festival’s Cannes Classics section for the first time. A few months later, this program was presented in Los Angeles as part of a tribute organized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Montreal’s Festival du nouveau cinéma in October saw the world premiere of Norman McLaren - The Master's Edition – the complete collection of works by this master of experimental film – under the supervision of Éric Barbeau. The Montreal premiere was followed by a world tour that began at the Pompidou Centre in Paris and included 20 major European, Canadian and American cities. The outstanding restoration work done on McLaren’s films also earned the NFB the Focal Award for Archive Restoration or Preservation Project from London’s Focal International (Federation of Commercial Audiovisual Libraries International).
At Cannes, the NFB and festival officials ratified an agreement that would see winners of the Cannes Film Festival’s Short Film Palme d’Or receiving the Norman McLaren Award along with a grant and the option of international distribution or co-production of their next work. The NFB launched the Focus on Animation Web site and the “Make the Pixels Dance!” contest with the support of the Canadian Memory Fund, encouraging the creation of animated films. Almost a thousand young people aged 9 to 20 took part, learning about McLaren’s trademark pixilation technique and submitting 170 original works made with a digital camera or a cellphone. Another innovation was Animacat’s House, a site for kids aged 5 to 8, designed with input from teachers, Mediatheque and CineRobotheque facilitators and the Groupe de recherche sur les jeunes et les médias (youth and media research group) of the Université de Montréal.
Still on the animation front, in October the NFB partnered with the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation to create the Nunavut Animation Lab, with the support of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), the Banff Centre, the National Screen Institute (NSI), Nunavut Film and the government of Nunavut. This was the latest addition to a long list of programs for Aboriginal filmmakers launched or supported by the NFB, including First Stories, Yukon Vérité and the Wapikoni Mobile.
In the fall, the NFB launched three major projects at MIPCOM. One of these was Connected, a series of eight 60-second microfilms for mobile platforms, intended for primary and secondary school students. Made with the Discovery Channel, NHK and Film Australia, the Film Board’s partners in the World Educational Consortium, Connected used a wealth of archival images to create vignettes without words exploring crucial ethical questions in modern science.
Another launch was Shorts in Motion: The Art of Seduction. This was a series of 10 microfilms by filmmakers from across Canada, produced in partnership with BravoFACT!/CHUM Television and marblemedia of Toronto. Experimental, finely crafted, created by high-profile filmmakers, media personalities and artists, the series won the Best Made for Mobile Video Service Award from the prestigious Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA). Also at MIPCOM, the NFB gave an advance screening of two shorts from the Confessions series, co-produced with Film Australia, sharing intimate secrets, lies, mysteries and revelations.
The 2002-2006 Strategic Plan ended in December, as did the mandate of Commissioner Jacques Bensimon, who left the NFB on December 17. Claude Jolicœur, Director of Business Affairs and Legal Services, took over as interim commissioner for six months.
Where do we live? In Radiant City, Gary Burns and Jim Brown explored our ever-expanding suburbs through a variety of viewpoints – and turned the documentary genre inside-out. In a different style but voicing similar concerns, Sergeo Kirby’s WAL-TOWN The Film dissected the impact of these chain stores on communities, as six young activists visited 36 Canadian Walmart stores to raise awareness.
Filmed in a multi-racial neighbourhood, The Point gave participants the opportunity to create characters, write and act in their own film, guided by directors and screenwriters, offering a gritty look at the lives of young people. Martin Duckworth’s Acting Blind explored powerful drama of a different kind, as blind and partially sighted actors tell their stories and express their feelings during their arduous rehearsals for the play Dancing to Beethoven.
Two individuals living with handicaps overcame obstacles to play active roles in their communities. The documentary SHAMELESS: The ART of Disability, marking the return of Bonnie Sherr Klein to filmmaking after a stroke in 1987, explored the transformative power of art on five remarkable people. Citizen Sam by Joe Moulins followed quadriplegic Sam Sullivan on his gruelling Vancouver mayoral campaign, alternating between the rough-and-tumble of municipal politics and private moments in the life of the world’s first quadriplegic to be elected mayor.
The human body provided the subject matter for yet more films: Hélène Bélanger-Martin struggled with anorexia and appeared in Johanne Prégent’s 1988 film La peau et les os. In her first documentary, La peau et les os, après…, Bélanger-Martin took a frank look at the terrible consequences of eating disorders. Old as Moses but still incurable, stuttering affects 1% of the world’s population. A stutterer himself, John Paskievitch made Unspeakable to meet the topic head-on, assess current research and uncover the mysteries and everyday hardships caused by this speech disorder.
In a different vein, Rodrigue Jean celebrated the work of one of Acadia’s great artists with L’extrême frontière, l’œuvre poétique de Gérald Leblanc. Serge Giguère’s À force de rêves showed that it’s possible to grow old happily, through the passion and joie de vivre of protagonists aged 72 to 94, in an eloquent and humane film that won the Jutra Award for best documentary. With Waban-Aki: People from Where the Sun Rises, Alanis Obomsawin delivered her 34th NFB film and returned to her roots to explore the identity issues confronting her people today.
The environment was a major social concern. Following the Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky to China, Jennifer Baichwal shot Manufactured Landscapes, exploring the ravages of industrialization in that emerging power, creating a powerful, eloquent film that received the Toronto City Award from the Toronto International Film Festival and the Genie for best documentary. In Les réfugiés de la planète bleue (The Refugees of the Blue Planet), Hélène Choquette and Jean-Philippe Duval shed light on the little-known plight of a new category of displaced people: environmental refugees. In 2007, the film won a Gémeaux from the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television.
Inspired by the Challenge for Change/Société nouvelle program in the 1970s, Filmmaker-in-Residence reinterpreted the concept of the “embedded journalist.” Filmmaker Katerina Cizek immersed herself in the daily lives of workers at St. Michael’s Hospital in an underprivileged part of Toronto, creating audiovisual works and putting media-making tools into the hands of concerned citizens. To date, two films have been created: the first, The Bicycle: Fighting AIDS with Community Medicine, accompanies St. Michael’s doctors who began the Dignitas International project in Malawi, and films the work of Pax Chingawale, a community worker at the frontlines of the AIDS pandemic. To make the second film, The Interventionists: Chronicles of a Mental Health Crisis Team, Cizek spent dozens of hours with a special team comprising a nurse and a Toronto police officer who respond to emergency calls from people in psychiatric or emotional crisis. This fascinating project can be followed at <www.nfb.ca/filmmakerinresidence>. In June 2008, this innovative site won the Rockie Award in the Internet Only Production Program at the Banff Television Festival and a Webby Award in New York for best documentary series.
The sometimes shocking constraints imposed on women in some Arab societies also attracted the attention of filmmakers. In Reema, allers-retours (Reema, There and Back), Paul Émile d'Entremont followed a young woman with a Canadian mother and Iraqi father, when she travels to Iraq to meet the dad she hardly knows. Carmen Garcia’s Le voyage de Nadia (Nadia's Journey) is co-directed with film subject Nadia Zouaoui, who returns to the Kabylia region of Algeria after 18 years, meeting women who live semi-imprisoned, cut off from the world and at the mercy of their husbands. This courageous work won the Caméra au poing award at the Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal. Le blues de l’Orient (Between Two Notes), winner of the award for best reportage at the International Festival of Films on Art, is Florence Strauss’s ode to cultural fusion and openness, borne on the timeless notes of classical Arab music.
New talent grabbed the spotlight with films like Symphonie Locass by Martine Asselin and Marco Dubé, where young musicians accustomed to Mozart throw themselves into more contemporary sounds. Cottonland by Nance Ackerman and collaborating director Edward Buchanan analyzes how drug addiction is ravaging economically depressed communities. The film garnered major awards at the Atlantic Film Festival in September. The IPOLC program also encouraged young filmmakers from official language minority communities like Franco-Ontarian Claude Guilmain, creator of a first short film entitled Portrait d’un parfait inconnu (Portrait of a Perfect Stranger), a moving story of the difficult life of a brother who died an untimely death.
What a start to the year! For the 12th time in its history, the NFB returns from Hollywood with an Oscar® to filmmaker Torill Kove for The Danish Poet. This was the animator’s second Academy Award nomination: Her first professional film, My Grandmother Ironed the King's Shirts, was a 2000 nominee. The Danish Poet also represented the 69th Oscar nomination for the NFB, making it the most-nominated filmmaking organization outside Hollywood. In addition to the famous statuette, this co-production between the NFB and Norway’s MikroFilm AS received a total of 20 awards, including the Genie for best animated short. The film considers whether we can trace the chain of events leading to our birth and whether our existence is just coincidence.
After the Oscars, Cannes was the site of another NFB triumph with Madame Tutli-Putli winning two awards at the 46th International Critics’ Week: the short film prizes Grand Prix Canal and Petit Rail d’or. The first professional work by directors Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski, this breathtaking stop-motion film takes the viewer on an exhilarating existential journey. Groundbreaking visual techniques push the boundaries of puppet animation, supported by a haunting and original score. Madame Tutli-Putli also won 20 other prizes, including the Genie for best animated short from the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television.
At the international documentary program market MIPDOC, the NFB presented a special screening of the feature Faith Without Fear by Ian McLeod. In the film, Irshad Manji − controversial author of the book The Trouble With Islam Today: A Muslim';s Call for Reform in Her Faith − wonders how Islam, a religion of justice, has become mired in fear. She travels the Middle East, Eastern Europe and North America on a mission to reconcile her faith in Allah with life in the 21st century.
The Film Board announced the winner of Content 360, an international contest to create innovative, interactive applications and content for broadband and mobile technology, organized as part of MIPTV/MILIA. Over 80 projects from around the world were submitted in 2007.
On June 11, English Program director Tom Perlmutter became Government Film Commissioner and Chairperson of the National Film Board of Canada. He has a solid background in TV production and international co-production for the private sector and has been a driving force in transforming the Film Board over the last five years.
At the Estates General of Arts and Culture in Caraquet in May, the NFB pledged to set up an e-cinema pilot project in New Brunswick. Four months later, at the Festival international du cinéma francophone en Acadie, the Film Board announced its partners in this project – a Canadian first and an exceptional opportunity to experience cutting-edge digital distribution technology. This community-based three-year e-cinema initiative was made possible thanks to the support of IPOLC, the Interdepartmental Partnership with the Official-Language Communities of Canadian Heritage.
With the death of former dictator Augusto Pinochet, Chile was again in the news as Patricio Henriquez’s Le côté obscur de la Dame Blanche (The Dark Side of the White Lady) was released in several Quebec cities following a successful tour of international film festivals. L’Esmeralda was one of the finest sail boats in the world, but behind the beauty of the “White Lady,” as Chileans called it, lay a horrific past, with this vessel serving as a torture chamber following the 1973 coup. Thirty years later, its victims were demanding justice while the perpetrators remained unpunished.
Baghdad Twist by Joe Balass is a visual memoir of one family’s life in Iraq before escaping to a new home in Canada in the fall of 1970. Featuring previously unseen archival images, home movies and family photographs from Baghdad, the film reveals Iraq’s once-thriving Jewish community, its perilous final years and its remarkable ability to find solace in the shadow of fear.
A milestone in the history of Canadian film, Late Fragment was the first interactive fiction in North America, creating a sensation during its launch at the Toronto International Film Festival and Montreal’s Festival du nouveau cinéma. Directed by Daryl Cloran, Anita Doron and Mateo Guez, it expanded the vocabulary of 21st century cinema, allowing viewers to unravel the interlocked stories with a click of the remote control.
In 1999, Richard Desjardins and Robert Monderie unleashed quite a debate with L’erreur boréale (Forest Alert), a hard-hitting look at deforestation in Quebec. In 2007 they returned with Le peuple invisible (The Invisible Nation), offering a troubling portrait of the Algonquin people, who had once lived with harmony in nature in their vast territory.
Another controversial documentary, Les épouses de l’armée (Nomad's Land) is a powerful look at the hard lives of military wives. When her husband joined the Air Force, filmmaker Claire Corriveau discovered a unique world where everything was subordinated to the needs of the armed forces, to the detriment of family life. Isolated, lonely, forced to move repeatedly, these women have little control over their lives. The film reminds us that they are the first collateral damage of an institution that – without their sacrifices – would be unable to do its job.
A luxury cruise ship motors up the Yangtze, navigating the mythic waterway known simply as “the river” in China. But the Yangtze is about to be transformed by the biggest hydroelectric dam in history. The Three Gorges Dam − contested symbol of the Chinese economic miracle − provides the epic backdrop for Up the Yangtze, a dramatic feature documentary on life inside the 21st century Chinese dream. Chinese-Canadian filmmaker Yung Chang offers a moving depiction of peasant life and a powerful portrait of contemporary China.
Racing against time with limited resources, relief workers must make split-second decisions about who gets treatment, who gets food, who lives and who dies. In Triage: Dr. James Orbinski's Humanitarian Dilemma, director Patrick Reed follows Dr. James Orbinski – recipient of the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) as their President, and field doctor during the Somali famine, Rwandan genocide and other catastrophes – as he embarks on his most difficult mission to date: writing a deeply personal and controversial book that struggles to make sense of it all.
Are children being pushed prematurely into adulthood? That’s the question posed by Sophie Bissonnette in her documentary Sexy Inc. Nos enfants sous influence (Sexy Inc. Our Children Under Influence), which analyzes the hypersexualization of our environment and its noxious effects on young people. Targeted earlier and earlier in their lives by marketers and advertisers, youngsters today are being bombarded with sexual and sexist images – a worrying phenomenon, as this film shows.
Following its success in North America, Sexy Inc. won the UNICEF Prize at the Japan Prize Contest, an international contest for educational media, established in 1965 by Japanese public broadcaster NHK. The NFB is currently adapting a classroom version of the film for 10- to 15-year-olds.
Highly acclaimed at the Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal, Au pays des colons (The Great Resistance) by Denys Desjardins sheds new light on the saga of Quebec’s Abitibi region. Skilfully juggling past, present and future, Desjardins talks to Hauris Lalancette, the focus of a series of films in the early 1970s by Pierre Perrault and Bernard Gosselin (Un royaume vous attend, Le retour à la terre, Gens d’Abitibi, C’était un Québécois en Bretagne, Madame!). Lalancette’s son Dany and his granddaughter Laurie are the unlikely survivors of a lifestyle that turned out to be a failed utopia for many. Juxtaposing their interviews with archival footage and images from earlier documentaries, The Great Resistance raises fundamental questions about rural development.
As mobile content continues to grab an expanding market share and transform how people interact with media, the NFB and Film Australia participate in one of the first international co-productions made for new technology. MobiDOCS: Confessions in a Digital Age presents ten two-minute shorts created for mobile, online, TV and cinema. In this new experimental series, five filmmakers from Canada and five from Australia share their views on relationships, nature and technology. Two of the shorts, Marree Man and Begging for Change, were shortlisted for a mobile award at MIPCOM.
True to its promise, on January 17 the NFB officially inaugurated the first e-cinema network in Acadia, in association with Université de Moncton, a public library and three arts organizations in New Brunswick. E-cinema is the digital transmission of films, which are downloaded onto a server and then screened in high definition. With equipment as simple as a server, a projector or HD TV and a sound system, the public can have a real cinematographic experience featuring superb image quality. Bouctouche, Caraquet, Edmundston, Kedgwick and Moncton are the host cities for this groundbreaking project.
Good news in English Program: On January 24, Cindy Witten was appointed Director General. With a stellar track record as one of Canada’s leaders in factual content programming, she is known for her willingness to recognize talent and take creative risks, possessing the right skill set of energy, drive and risk-taking to keep the NFB at the cutting edge of innovative media making.
At the Hot Docs Festival on April 21, Commissioner Tom Perlmutter launched the new NFB Strategic Plan, affirming a commitment to meeting the challenges of media making in a radically shifting audiovisual world. The plan is strongly tied to NFB founding principles: nurturing creators and risk-taking, producing socially committed works across all platforms and making NFB productions accessible to all Canadians. To prepare the Strategic Plan, Perlmutter toured the country and met with key players in documentary, animation and new media.
The 2008-2013 Strategic Plan reaffirms the essential role of the NFB as a complement to Canada’s private sector. It lays out a foundation for NFB programming, with a mandate for the NFB to be a global reference point for innovation and creativity in multi-platform social issue documentary, community-engaged media, alternative drama and auteur animation. The plan also highlights accessibility and democratic engagement to promote public dialogue, across all platforms
In June, four international awards recognized the NFB’s innovative programming. At the Banff Television Awards, Four Wings and a Prayer won the Rockie Award for Best Wildlife & Natural History Program; Up the Yangtze tied for the Best Canadian Program category, while the groundbreaking Web site Filmmaker-in-Residence took the Rockie for Internet Only Program. The same month, the site was honoured with a Webby Award in New York for Best Documentary Series.
Also in June, producer Monique Simard was appointed Director General of French Program and took over the helm on August 18. She is recognized as a major figure in documentary film in Quebec, and her strengths are her support for socially engaged film, her energy and her clear vision for auteur documentary. She is very familiar with the NFB, having co-produced such films as Des marelles et des petites filles... (Of Hopscotch and Little Girls...) and Les réfugiés de la planète bleue (The Refugees of the Blue Planet).
In November, she gave the branch a new lease on life by announcing a reorganization to streamline the structure and implement more efficient work processes, allowing the branch to reinvest in creation and reinstate a filmmaker residence program.
In December, the NFB launched the 2009 Tremplin contest for emerging filmmakers from French minority communities in Canada. Now in its third year, the pan-Canadian competition is jointly run by the NFB’s Ontario and West Studio, its Acadia Studio and Société Radio-Canada, with support from Canadian Heritage’s IPOLC (Interdepartmental Partnership with the Official-Language Communities). Tremplin gives young filmmakers a chance to make a documentary short under professional conditions and attend training workshops given by seasoned professionals. To date, 126 filmmakers have taken part, 33 finalists were chosen as finalists and 14 shorts were produced.
The NFB has always enjoyed a high profile in Québec City, so it wasn’t surprising that the Film Board was front and centre as the Quebec capital celebrated its 400th anniversary, with two eagerly awaited world premieres. With his feature Infiniment Québec (Forever Quebec), Jean-Claude Labrecque plumbs the daily life of his hometown to reveal its mysteries and the Ariadne’s thread of memory that forever weaves the fabric of Quebec identity. The feature Folle de Dieu (Madwoman of God) by Jean-Daniel Lafond is a spiritual mystery story in which actress Marie Tifo tackles the incandescent writing of Marie Guyart, known as “Marie de l’Incarnation,” exploring the remarkable destiny of the founder of Québec City’s Ursuline convent. In Espace 400e, the NFB offered up some great titles from its collection, chosen especially for the event, including the documentaries Mike Birch, le cow-boy des mers (Mike Birch: Riding with the Wind), Le peuple invisible (The Invisible Nation) and Symphonie Locass.
The tribute continued in January 2009 with a souvenir box set of nine NFB films on the history of Quebec City. The three-DVD set was distributed for free to over 26,000 schools and public libraries across the country. The films were made between 1950 and 2008 and include Carnaval de Québec (Carnival in Quebec) (1956), Mon parc, mes Plaines (My Park, My Plains) (2008), Infiniment Québec (Forever Quebec) (2008) and Le cocher (The Calèche Driver) (1953). Canadians can follow this fascinating journey to the heart of their history on the Internet site nfb.ca/tribute-quebec.
The NFB’s long-time partnership with the Musée de la civilisation came to fruition with the short film Champlain retracé (Facing Champlain), directed by Jean-François Pouliot, an innovative stereoscopic production that skilfully melds fiction and animation. Audiences discovered a larger-than-life Samuel de Champlain at spectacular 3D presentations at the Centre d’interprétation de Place-Royale, in the heart of Québec City.
The National Battlefields Commission asked the NFB to make a documentary short to mark its own centenary and that of the Battlefields Park: Mon parc, mes Plaines (My Park, My Plains) by Carole Laganière is a lively and humorous account of the historic moments of the Plains of Abraham. After screening all summer in the centenary tent, the film became a permanent attraction at the Discovery Pavilion on the Plains of Abraham.
Another city, another history... For six months in 1919, Paris was the centre of the world’s attention. The lost shots had been fired in the most devastating war of all time, and the old world order was destroyed. Delegations from over 30 countries hurried to Paris for talks on one of the most ambitious peace agreements in history. Filmmaker Paul Cowan drew inspiration from Margaret MacMillan’s cult book and from existing archives to make Paris 1919, which plunges the viewer into the heart of this extraordinary event.
Following The Dark Side of the White Lady, Patricio Henriquez directed the documentary Sous la cagoule, un voyage au bout de la torture (Under the Hood, a Voyage into the World of Torture), retracing the stories of people who were illegally tortured. September 11, 2001 saw the birth of a new world order in which the “war against terror” allowed institutionalized violence to be exercised with full impunity, with democratic countries convinced that they were absolutely right in doing so. Henriquez looks back at the history of torture, systematized by the Catholic Inquisition in the Middle Ages, as well as at the shameful history of American complicity with torturers, and calls for vigilance.
Poetic and brief, powerful and profound as a prayer, the ink-on-paper animation Robes of War/Robe de guerree shows a pitiless cycle of suffering and revenge. When will the violence stop? How many more deaths will there be in the name of God and freedom? The searing brushstrokes of artist Michèle Cournoyer tell an explosive story.
For his third NFB film, Nicolas Brault combined 2D animation on a graphics tablet with the warmth of sand animation, applying his narrative gifts to a world where humans and nature are subtly linked. In Hungu, a child walks under the African sun in the desert with his kin. Death is prowling, but a mother’s soul resurrected by music returns strength and life to the child when he becomes a man.
A new series of six 3-minute episodes entitled Mobile Stories was part of an online storytelling experiment for mobile devices. Co-produced by iThentic and the NFB, with the support of the Telus Innovation Fund through the Canadian Film Centre, the series screened at MIPDOC and MIPTV/MILIA.
Greeted enthusiastically at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, Luc Bourdon’s The Memories of Angels screened two months later at Festival du nouveau cinéma in Montreal. This heart-warming homage to the city of Montreal and to the craft of filmmaking is a symphonic feature-length film made up of excerpts from NFB films. Along with two other NFB productions (Drux Flux and Heaven on Earth), it was selected by the Toronto International Film Festival Group as one of the ten best Canadian films of 2008. The Festival Group is a national jury of filmmakers, programming coordinators, journalists and industry professionals.
In 2009, Remembrance Day marked the 90th anniversary of the Armistice. To honour the event, the NFB screened Front Lines by Claude Guilmain, inviting Canadians to take part in the commemorations by viewing the film, streamed for 24 hours on Tuesday, November 11 on the NFB Web site and broadcast on television the same day. This poetic documentary interweaves the words of those at the front with remarkable archival photos and footage.
A province-level conflict was the subject of The Battle of Rabaska by Magnus Isacsson and Martin Duckworth. From 2004 to 2008, the filmmakers followed the battle fought by citizens against the Rabaska consortium’s methane tanker terminal planned for the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, opposite Île d’Orléans. The Quebec government gave the green light to the project in October, 2007 and work is to start in 2010, with gas delivery beginning in 2014. This moving and engaging documentary sparked animated discussions at Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal.
The same festival also gave an enthusiastic welcome to Philippe Baylaucq’s Le magicien de Kaboul (A Dream for Kabul), co-produced with InformAction Films. This transports the viewer to Afghanistan, where reconstruction work continues despite the war raging against the Taliban. The hero lost his son in the collapse of the World Trade Center, but instead of seeking revenge, he decided to visit Afghanistan, speak to the people and try to end the cycle of violence.
The very first “open source” documentary, RiP: A Remix Manifesto is a participatory media experiment where director Brett Gaylor shares his raw footage for anyone to remix. This movie-as-mash-up method allows these remixes to become an integral part of the film. Screening at the 21st International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam on November 29, RiP: A Remix Manifesto won the Dioraphte Audience Award. This highly topical feature film explores issues of copyright in the information age. At the February Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois, the NFB presented a workshop entitled "I got it off the Internet: It belongs to everyone, right?" It began with a screening of RiP: A Remix Manifesto, followed by a discussion between the audience, the director and copyright and multimedia experts.
In June, the NFB released seven shorts for programming on the YouTubeTM Screening Room, which offers viewers a selection of the best international animated shorts. The first NFB films screened on www.youtube.com/ytscreeningroom were Ryan and The Danish Poet, both Oscar® winners in 2005 and 2007 respectively.
The NFB is forging closer links with YouTubeIM to webcast its films. In June, as well as presenting the Cannes 2008 Online Competition and its nine finalists’ short films, YouTube and the NFB launched www.youtube.com/nfb and www.youtube.com/onf, offering trailers and clips from new NFB documentaries and animations.
Created on May 2, 1939, the NFB celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2009. It marked the occasion with a precious gift to Canadians: a one-of-a-kind online Screening Room providing free home viewing, 24-7, in French and English, to over 700 streamed films, trailers and clips from the collection. From historic films dating back to 1928 to contemporary releases, including award-winning documentaries, animations and fiction, the Screening Room invites film lovers from across the country to discover this national treasure. Online in January 2009, it was a key element in the Strategic Plan unveiled by Tom Perlmutter in April 2008, specifying that the NFB would make its films more accessible to the Canadian public. It also marked the last stage in the digital transition, which began in the early 1990s.
Of course it was natural that the NFB should celebrate such an important anniversary in pictures! Jean-François Pouliot received the mandate to create a modern portrait of the Film Board and its essential role in the social fabric of Canada and the world. Skilfully devised, NFB 70 Years melds genres, gets friendly with direct cinema and flirts with virtuoso animation techniques. Unlike run-of-the-mill tribute films, NFB 70 Years does not list the innumerable successes of the institution, but gives centre stage to the artist. It is a paean to freedom of expression, to the vital role of auteur filmmaking and to modernity.
Since 1994, NFB films and filmmakers have been regularly honoured at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, which selected two films in 2009: Co-produced by AM Pictures and the NFB, Nollywood Babylon was one of 16 titles chosen for the festival's World Cinema Documentary Competition, taking place January 15 to 25. The documentary takes the viewer inside Nigeria's dynamic film industry, the third largest in the world after Hollywood and Bollywood, with an output of over 2,000 films annually.
The NFB's second production at Sundance, the animated short The Real Place, honours the Alberta playwright John Murrell for his lifetime achievement award from the Governor General of Canada at the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards.
Together, the NFB and the Canadian Film Centre set up the CFC/NFB Feature Documentary Program to develop original feature-length documentaries. This innovative six-month program was created for accomplished Canadian directors with a theatrical documentary concept that would advance the genre and achieve commercial and critical success. It is an immersive experience that combines a residency at the CFC with project-specific mentorship from some of Canada's and the world's greatest documentary talents. A research period gives participants the time and resources to experiment with elements like shooting, editing, sound and image treatment as they refine the proposed approach to their projects. At the end of the program, projects will be considered for production. Filmmakers Yung Chang, Sarah Polley, Shelly Saywell and John Walker took part in the first edition.
In 2004, filmmaker Manon Barbeau established Wapikoni Mobile, and in 2009 she was invited to join the prestigious ranks of the lifetime Fellows of Ashoka Canada. Ashoka is the world's largest organization actively encouraging and supporting innovative social entrepreneurship.
The 27th edition of Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois took place in February, screening no fewer than 23 NFB films. For the first time, the Film Board presented the NFB Innovation Award, worth $5,000 in technical services as part of its ACIC program (Aide au cinéma indépendant Canada), to a film in the Short Drama Section that distinguished itself by its form and treatment.
The same month, the NFB launched a call for proposals for short films on the theme of racism in the workplace. Entitled Work For All/La tête de l'emploi , this new media project means to inform the public, employers and employees of the obstacles that visible minorities and Aboriginal people face in their careers and highlight the strategies to create success and eliminate those obstacles. In collaboration with Human Resources Social Development Canada, Work For All aims to be a powerful tool for education and positive social change.
Filmmaker Lina B. Moreco has made several works where health takes centre stage. Her film on extreme treatments for premature babies, Médecine sous influence/Medicine Under the Influence won the 2004 Gémeaux for Best Documentary: Nature & Sciences. Her most recent film, Silence, on vaccine/Shots in the Dark, interviews researchers in Quebec, France and the U.S. about the complexities of vaccination, which can cause serious side effects in some people, such as autism and multiple sclerosis. A thought-provoking topic, regardless of one's viewpoint.
A highly appropriate film for January viewing, Martha qui vient du froid/Martha of the North by Marquise Lepage, sheds light on a sombre, little-known episode in Canadian history. In the mid-1950s, lured by false promises of a better life, Inuit families were displaced by the Canadian government and left to their own devices in the Far North. Martha Flaherty grew up in this icy desert realm. She and her family had to fight to survive in a climate that was nothing like the idyllic setting that her grandfather, filmmaker Robert J. Flaherty, depicted in Nanook of the North. A strikingly topical subject in an era when Arctic sovereignty is back in the headlines.
Having weathered the storms of the preceding decades, the NFB vigorously embarked on the 21st century by, as usual, leading the way with technological innovations in production and distribution, encouraging creativity and expanding its presence in the diverse communities of Canada.
In 2003, Stéphane Drolet closely followed two citizen experiences with community mediation in Longueuil and Sherbrooke, Quebec. This resulted in the DVD Médiation de quartier (Community Mediation: Two Real-Life Experiences), containing useful suggestions for those involved in conflict resolution. Three years later, in the drama The Point, teens from a multiracial inner-city neighbourhood, working with professional filmmakers and writers, offer a fresh take on youth living on the wrong side of the tracks. Another highly innovative project was initiated by Manon Barbeau: the Wapikoni Mobile, a mobile production studio that travels to Aboriginal communities teaching young filmmakers about video production and giving them a chance to create their own works.
On the NFB Web site, the Parole citoyenne and CitizenShift sites encouraged citizens to think about crucial issues and question the powers that be. And the Filmmaker-in-Residence program illustrated the NFB’s desire to use film for establishing an authentic relationship with those at the heart of the action, as in Katerina Cizek’s immersion in the daily life of the staff of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.
Given the success of the NFB CineRobotheque in Montreal, which opened in 1993, the NFB opened a similar centre in Toronto in 2002. The Toronto Mediatheque attracted thousands of visitors a year with a variety of activities, including an introductory animation workshop using the LunchBox Sync animation tool to let kids record their own stop-motion creations.
After the trials conducted in some Quebec universities in the mid-1990s, the CineRoute project opened its online film library in 2004, offering over 250 films for streaming in MPEG-4 format to NFB Film Club members with a high-speed connection. Four years later, the NFB partnered with YouTubeIM to webcast its films.
In 2009, the NFB celebrated its 70th anniversary by giving Internet users access to its online Screening Room. More than 700 productions – including films, trailers and clips from the Film Board’s impressive collection – were made available for free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, completing the last stage in the NFB’s digital transition.
Another innovation concerned digital cinema. In 2007, the NFB undertook an e-cinema pilot project in five Acadian communities to distribute films in French to minority-language audiences. The experience would be used to assess the feasibility of a national e-cinema community network. The NFB also launched Shorts in Motion, a collection of micro-movies for viewing on mobile phones or online, so as to reach film fans everywhere, even on the move.
Creativity was also front and centre on the production side. Inspired by Russian film pioneer Dziga Vertov, Denys Desjardins decided to have a “camera eye” implanted to replace the eye he had lost as a child, and recounts the experience in his 2001 documentary Mon œil pour une caméra. Animator Munro Ferguson used the IMAX-developed SANDDE (Stereoscopic Animation Drawing Device) to make Falling in Love Again, the first animated film in 3D. Paul Morstad used the same technology for Moon Man in 2004.
That same year saw the release of one of the most widely acclaimed films in NFB history. Ryan, Chris Landreth’s brilliant short about Ryan Larkin, a gifted animator who had made groundbreaking films at the NFB before ending up on the street panhandling for spare change. Ryan earned 60 awards. These included the Genie for best animated short, a special citation from the Toronto Film Critics Association, the grand prize at CINANIMA in Spain, the new discovery award at the Festival du nouveau cinéma de Montréal, the award for best experimental film at the LA Shorts Fest, a Special Jury Award at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival and, to top it all, the 2005 Oscar® for best animated short.
Another animation first was the technique created by Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski for endowing the puppets in Madame Tutli-Putli with human expressions. The film received an Oscar nomination in 2008 for best animated short, the NFB’s 70th nomination for the coveted statuette.
One of the NFB’s latest innovations, combining live action with 3D animation, was offered to the public as part of Québec City’s 400th anniversary celebrations in the summer of 2008. Facing Champlain: A Work in 3 Dimensions, a drama about the city’s founder, was created by Jean-François Pouliot using SANDDE technology and installed at the Musée de la civilisation’s Centre d’interprétation de Place-Royale.