2010 World Expo in Shanghai

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Canada at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo

Canada is taking part in the Shanghai World Expo, which runs from May 1 to October 31, 2010. The expo, the theme of which is "Better City, Better Life," is expected to be the largest ever held, with more than 200 participating countries and organizations. Between 70 and 90 million people are expected to attend, 95% of them from China.

The Canada Pavilion, extending over 6,000 square metres and shaped like a giant "C," can welcome up to 30,000 visitors per day. It is inspired by public spaces in the country's great cities, and its theme is "The Living City: Inclusive, Sustainable, Creative." Cirque du Soleil, working with the Government of Canada, is responsible for the pavilion's design and management, and created the public presentations.

The NFB's contribution

The NFB has made a significant contribution to Canada's presence at the Shanghai World Expo. As visitors journey through the Canada Pavilion, they will be able to see some twenty NFB animation classics as well as images from its archives collection integrated into the scenery designed by Cirque du Soleil, and view the short film Impressions/Glimpses by Jean-François Pouliot, created especially for the Expo.

The film depicts 24 hours in the life of an imagined city—a composite that draws on all of Canada's cities. This imaginary day unfolds through the course of four seasons, revealing the people and places that make them so vibrant. The images in the film slowly come together with impressionistic touches, adopting the rhythm of someone strolling through the city, intermingling and replying to each other to create moving tableaux that evoke a different story for each viewer.

To capture everyday life in this imagined city, the filmmakers employed a photographic approach. This technique creates an intimate relationship between viewers and the people of Canada. Still photographers Serge Clément and Claude-Simon Langlois travelled the country with a small crew, capturing multiple, unstaged images of particular people and places. More than 57,000 images in all were shot over several hours, and sometimes even days.

An immersive experience and its technical challenges

Impressions/Glimpses will provide spectators in Shanghai with an immersive cinematic experience. The film, a montage of several hundred high-definition still photographs, is being shown on a semi-circular screen 21 metres wide by 5 metres high, which has a curvature of approximately 150 degrees.

The project had its share of daunting technical challenges, which the production team solved with aplomb. First of all, the size and shape of the screen create a new relationship between viewer and film. The images cannot all be grasped within the spectator's field of vision, so the eye is forced to wander. The challenge was to guide the viewer's gaze with the right rhythm, taking into account the size and curvature of the screen.

A reinvented approach to editing was also required: the post-production team worked with still images, unlike the moving pictures in a conventional film. They had to shape them into animated tableaux, finding just the right way of integrating and superimposing the hundreds of photos. A further constraint was that the film was edited on a screen much smaller than the one on which it would eventually be screened.

Lastly, the team had to ensure the quality of the high-definition images would be maintained on the large screen, across its full curvature, and despite the presence of ambient lighting in the venue.

The NFB and World's Fairs

Shanghai, of course, is not the first World's Fair for which the Film Board has produced a work. In collaboration with the Government of Canada and many other partners, the NFB has made films for Expo 67 in Montreal, Expo '70 in Osaka (1970), Expo '86 in Vancouver (1986) and Expo '92 in Seville.

As with Impressions/Glimpses, NFB artisans had to surmount significant technical challenges in producing the films for those events—which in some cases led to pioneering technological innovations.

Download the press kit for the movie Glimpses/Impressions.