To celebrate Black History Month, we've selected a group of NFB of films that can only scratch the surface of such a rich and multi-layered culture. Incredible stories in the Black community of strength, courage and perseverance in the face of adversity date back to the beginning of time, yet are not easily found in mainstream history books. Sadly, these are not lessons often taught at the elementary or secondary level in schools.
This selection spans both the country and the wealth of topics that beg to be explored, from a beautifully crafted overview of Black history in Black Soul to the story of teens building self-esteem and fighting racism in Speak it! From the Heart of Black Nova Scotia.
From the story of Black employees of the Canadian railways fighting discrimination in The Road Taken to an inside peek at the lives of Black athletes in Golden Gloves, there's a story for everyone. From the ever-present controversy about interracial relationships in Crossroads to a quest to right past wrongs in Speakers for the Dead, history is brought to life. And finally, there's this magical tale about a young African boy, a lion and a quest to save a life.
This animated short for children tells the story of Christopher, a little boy who didn't want to be called Christopher anymore. Such a common name! When Aunty Gail from Trinidad tells him a story about a Tiger, Christopher changes his name to Tiger. But then he finds a better name. When he has trouble cashing a birthday cheque, he realizes maybe he should stick with his original name... or maybe not? Part of the Talespinners collection, which uses vibrant animation to bring popular children’s stories from a wide range of cultural communities to the screen.
In the 1850s, Canada meant freedom for many escaped slaves, but the route known as the "underground railroad" was a dangerous one at the best of times. This drama tells the story of one group travelling the perilous route. It tells, too, of the people who could be trusted to help, and of the trackers and their dogs, who could cut off the lifeline to the border suddenly and very cruelly.
This short documentary pays tribute to a group of Canadians who took racism to court. They are Canada's unsung heroes in the fight for Black civil rights. Focusing on the 1930s to the 1950s, this film documents the struggle of 6 people who refused to accept inequality. Featured here, among others, are Viola Desmond, a woman who insisted on keeping her seat at a Halifax movie theatre in 1946 rather than moving to the section normally reserved for the city's Black population, and Fred Christie, who took his case to the Supreme Court after being denied service at a Montreal tavern in 1936. These brave pioneers helped secure justice for all Canadians. Their stories deserve to be told.
This animated short tells the story of Seraphim "Joe" Fortes, one of Vancouver's most beloved citizens. Born in the West Indies, Joe Fortes swam in English Bay for over than 30 years. A self-appointed lifeguard at first, he became so famous that the city of Vancouver finally rewarded him with a salary for doing what he loved best. He taught thousands of people to swim and saved over a hundred lives. Yet there were some who did not respect him because of his skin colour. Through his determination, kindness and love for children, Joe helped shift attitudes.
Martine Chartrand’s animated short dives into the heart of Black culture with an exhilarating trip though history. Watch as a young boy traces his roots through the stories his grandmother shares with him about the events that shaped their cultural heritage.
In their predominantly white high school in Halifax, a group of black students face daily reminders of racism, ranging from abuse (racist graffiti on washroom walls), to exclusion (the omission of black history from textbooks). They work to establish a Cultural Awareness Youth Group, a vehicle for building pride and self-esteem through educational and cultural programs. With help from mentors, they discover the richness of their heritage and learn some of the ways they can begin to effect change.
This 1996 documentary takes a nostalgic ride through history to present the experiences of Black sleeping-car porters who worked on Canada's railways from the early 1900s through the 1960s. There was a strong sense of pride among these men and they were well-respected by their community. Yet, harsh working conditions prevented them from being promoted to other railway jobs until finally, in 1955, porter Lee Williams took his fight to the union. Claiming discrimination under the Canada Fair Employment Act, the Blacks won their right to work in other areas. Interviews, archival footage and the music of noted jazz musician Joe Sealy (whose father was a porter) combine to portray a fascinating history that might otherwise have been forgotten.
A classic NFB documentary about the Golden Gloves boxing tournament, the Canadian amateur's hope for success in the boxing world. This Gilles Groulx film shows three Montreal boxers in training. In behind-the-scenes interviews they talk about their ambitions and what prompted them to take up the sport.
This sensitive drama tells the story of a couple, Roy and Judy, and the reactions they encounter when they announce their intention to marry, reactions complicated by the fact that Roy is black and Judy is white.
This documentary reveals some of the hidden history of Blacks in Canada. In the 1930s in rural Ontario, a farmer buried the tombstones of a Black cemetery to make way for a potato patch. In the 1980s, descendants of the original settlers, Black and White, came together to restore the cemetery, but there were hidden truths no one wanted to discuss. Deep racial wounds were opened. Scenes of the cemetery excavation, interviews with residents and re-enactments—including one of a baseball game where a broken headstone is used for home plate—add to the film's emotional intensity.
This animated short is about a Kenyan boy who goes on a quest to save the life of his sick grandfather. In his search for healers in a mysterious village, he encounters a strange lion caught in a trap. Upon being freed, the lion gratefully takes the boy on an adventure.
Black Mother Black Daughter explores the lives and experiences of black women in Nova Scotia, their contributions to the home, the church and the community and the strengths they pass on to their daughters.
This short film depicts Africville, a small black settlement that lay within the city limits of Halifax, Nova Scotia. In the 1960s, the families there were uprooted and their homes demolished in the name of urban renewal and integration. More than 20 years later, the site of the community of Africville is a stark, under-utilized park. Former residents, their descendants and some of the decision-makers speak out and, with the help of archival photographs and films, tell the story of that painful relocation.