NFB films encompass a wide variety of war topics studied in both elementary and high schools. War is an important theme in Canadian and World Studies, Science, English Language Arts, History, Geography, Citizenship and the Arts. The films on this playlist make up only a fragment of the NFB’s remarkable collection of films on war and history. Educators are also encouraged to view other NFB titles apart from the films seen here should they wish to pursue a specialist path.
Modern curriculum methods encourage students to act more as detectives than as passive recipients of knowledge. The subject of war can provide a means of teaching through the HW5 method (How, Who, What, Why, Where, When) in provincial curriculums across Canada. Critical thinking, placing events in time, cause and effect, vocabulary, debating, calculating, drawing, understanding different viewpoints, cooperative learning and many other skills can be developed using these film excerpts; they also serve as a springboard for integrating Reflective Questions and Issues.
As much as possible, this playlist encourages students to construct as well as reflect on the big questions involving war. The issues covered by these clips are, in fact, endless, and involve questions that will elicit conflicting opinions. Usually, there is no one correct answer. A nuanced weighing of the situation is required. Frequently, students are faced with moral dilemmas requiring further thought, discussion and research. Formal class debates are an excellent way of exploring the issues presented here.
These film clips are introductions to events, themes, issues, periods of time and other subjects determined by the teacher. Consequently, although these are excellent vehicles to spark student interest, it is important that teachers place these excerpts in their historical context and remind students that the people depicted in these films did not know how and when the war was going to end.
This feature documentary profiles poet John McCrae, from his childhood in Ontario to his years in medicine at McGill University and the WWI battlefields of Belgium, where he cared for wounded soldiers. Generations of schoolchildren have recited McCrae’s iconic poem “In Flanders Fields,” but McCrae and Alexis Helmer—the young man whose death inspired the poem—have faded from memory. This film seeks to revive their stories through a vivid portrait of a great man in Canadian history.
The National Film Board of Canada, in collaboration with the Canadian War Museum, OHASSTA, and the Royal Canadian Legion present a recitation of John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields” to mark the 100-year anniversary of this iconic war poem. One of Canada’s leading film, television and stage actors, R.H. Thomson, will read the poem and moderate the event. Afterwards there is a lively panel discussion, based on your questions, featuring R.H. Thomson, WWI historian Melanie Morin-Pelletier and Master Corporal Martin Rouleau, Medical Technician. This landmark event will underpin the importance of remembrance and explore the relevance of McCrae’s poem in our times.
A tribute to the combatants in the First World War, this film traces the conflict through the war diary and private letters of five Canadian soldiers and a nurse. Hearing them, the listener detects between the lines an unspoken horror censored by war and propriety.
The film mingles war footage, historical photos and readings of excerpts from the diary and letters. The directorial talent of Claude Guilmain breathes life into these 90-year-old documents and accompanying archival images so that we experience the human face and heart of the conflict.
For the educational sector, five documentary vignettes have been drawn from the film: Nurses at the Front, The Officer's Role, The Life of the Soldier, Faith and Hope and The Trenches, each with further information on its particular subject.
This documentary marks the 100th anniversary of the Royal 22e Régiment, the only French-speaking Canadian battalion to fight in the First World War. Widely known by its colloquial name, “The Van Doos”, the battalion served with distinction on several fronts, including both world wars, the Korean War, and in numerous U.N. peacekeeping operations. This film offers a moving tribute to both the living veterans and the lost soldiers of the Van Doos. Their personal stories and narratives bring a little-known page of our history books to life. This vibrant elegy features a moving score by Claude Naubert performed live by the regimental formation La Musique du Royal 22e Régiment.
They raised children, baked cakes... and built world-class fighter planes. Sixty years ago, thousands of women from Thunder Bay and the Prairies donned trousers, packed lunch pails and took up rivet guns to participate in the greatest industrial war effort in Canadian history. Like many other factories across the country from 1939 to 1945, the shop floor at Fort William's Canadian Car and Foundry was transformed from an all-male workforce to one with forty percent female workers.
This feature documentary profiles 12 Canadian women who entered the male-dominated world of munitions factories and farm labour during World War I. In 1994, aged 86 to 101, these women recall their wartime work experiences and the ways in which their commitment and determination helped lead the way to postwar social changes for women.
In this documentary, we hear directly from francophone soldiers serving in the Royal 22e Régiment (known in English as “Van Doos”) who were filmed in the field in March 2011, during their deployment to Afghanistan. They speak simply and directly about their work, whether on patrol or performing their duties at the base. The film's images and interviews bring home the complexity of the issues on the ground and shed light on the little-understood experiences of the men and women who served in Afghanistan.
This short animation tells the story of a young boy and his father, both of whom are enlisted to fight in the war. The boy's pride soon turns to fear as the bullets whistle overhead. His father takes his place and is immediately shot and killed. Horrified, the boy understands that war is not a game. Based on article 38 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, this film illustrates the right of children under the age of 15 not to be recruited into the armed forces.
From the beginning of the Second World War in 1939, Mackenzie King tried to avoid conscription. Most English Canadians thought young men should be sent to fight, while most French Canadians vehemently disagreed. This same division had nearly torn the country apart during the First World War. King had to make a decision in the final year of the war. This docudrama combines archival footage with excerpts from The King Chronicles, a dramatic series written and directed by Donald Brittain.
Some scenes contain graphic language.
This feature-length documentary reveals the unspoken truth about war - it never really ends. Archival images and personal stories portray the lingering devastation of war. Filmed on location in Russia, France, Bosnia and Vietnam, the film features individuals involved in the cleanup of war: de-miners who risk their lives on a daily basis, psychologists working with distraught soldiers, and scientists and doctors who struggle with the contamination of dioxin used during Vietnam. Based on the Gelber Award-winning book by Donovan Webster, this film conveys the fact that war doesn't end when the fighting stops.
This short animation is director Ann Marie Fleming’s animated adaptation of Bernice Eisenstein’s acclaimed illustrated memoir. Using the healing power of humour, the film probes the taboos around a very particular second-hand trauma, leading us to a more universal understanding of human experience. The film sensitively explores identity and loss through the audacious proposition that the Holocaust is addictive and defining.
The Van Doos in Afghanistan is a feature-length documentary that propels you directly into the heart of the action among the soldiers serving with the Royal 22e Régiment. In this clip, we meet Corporal Maxime Émond-Pépin, who suffered a serious leg injury and lost an eye on his first mission in 2009. Despite his injuries, he rejoined his battalion in Afghanistan. He talks about how important it was for him to get back to the infantry.
The Van Doos in Afghanistan is a documentary that propels you directly into the heart of the action among the soldiers serving with the Royal 22e Régiment.
In this clip, we follow Captain Stéphane Guillemette on the ground as he conducts daily searches for improvised explosive devices or hidden insurgent weapons caches. Conducting daily patrols of the Panjwaye district demands constant vigilance.
The Van Doos in Afghanistan is a documentary that propels you directly into the heart of the action among the soldiers serving with the Royal 22e Régiment. In this clip, Captain Pascal Croteau, Armour Officer assisting the 1st Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment Battle Group, and Sergeant Patrick Auger, Platoon Second-in-Command, talk about their work to secure the road to Mushan. Confidence is growing and increasing numbers of Afghans are now using the road.
The Van Doos in Afghanistan is a documentary that propels you directly into the heart of the action among the soldiers serving with the Royal 22e Régiment. Private Stéphane Perreault is passionate about his profession in the infantry. He talks about what made him decide to enlist and how proud he is to serve in the military as part of the French-speaking Royal 22e Régiment. He plans to carry on his work for a long time to come.
The Van Doos in Afghanistan is a documentary that propels you directly into the heart of the action among the soldiers serving with the Royal 22e Régiment. In this clip, Lieutenant-Colonel Michel-Henri St-Louis and Major François Dufault take stock of the progress that has been made since the beginning of the military intervention in Afghanistan. While being realistic and aware of the fragility of the situation, they are, nevertheless proud of the work that has been accomplished by Canada`s armed forces.
The Van Doos in Afghanistan is a documentary that propels you directly into the heart of the action among the soldiers serving with the Royal 22e Régiment. In this clip, the soldiers gather for a minute of silence in memory of Corporal Yannick Scherrer, their comrade-in-arms. His coffin is carried onto the plane that will fly him home to his final resting place.
Based on a poem by Marie Jacobs, the animated short 55 Socks, by Oscar-winning director Co Hoedeman, pays tribute to the ingenuity of the Dutch people during a dark period of their history – the winter of hunger of 1944-45. It’s the closing months of the war in occupied Holland and some women unravel a beautiful bedspread in order to knit 55 socks to barter for food. Reaching back into his childhood memories, Hoedeman has made a simple, poetic film of rare beauty.
This is the story of Joseph Rotblat, the only nuclear scientist to leave the Manhattan Project, the U.S. government’s secret program to build the first atomic bomb. His was a decision based on moral grounds.
The film retraces the history of nuclear weapons, from the first test in New Mexico, to Hiroshima, where we see survivors of the first atomic attack. Branded a traitor and spy, Rotblat went from designing atomic bombs to researching the medical uses of radiation. Together with Bertrand Russell he helped create the modern peace movement, and eventually won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Featuring interviews with contemporaries of Rotblat and passionate public figures including Senator Roméo Dallaire, The Strangest Dream demonstrates the renewed threat of nuclear weapons and encourages hope through the example of morally engaged scientists and citizens.
This documentary tells the personal story of filmmaker Jari Osborne's father, a Chinese-Canadian veteran. She describes her father's involvement in World War II and uncovers a legacy of discrimination and racism against British Columbia's Chinese-Canadian community. Sworn to secrecy for decades, Osborne's father and his war buddies now vividly recall their top-secret missions behind enemy lines in Southeast Asia. Theirs is a tale of young men proudly fighting for a country that had mistreated them. This film does more than reveal an important period in Canadian history. It pays moving tribute to a father's quiet heroism.
This documentary introduces us to Italian-Canadians whose lives were disrupted and uprooted by seclusion in internment camps during the Second World War. On June 10, 1940, Italy entered WWII. Overnight, the Canadian government came to see the country's 112,000 Italian-Canadians as a threat to its national security. The RCMP rounded up thousands of people it considered fascist sympathizers. Seven hundred of them were held for up to three years in internment camps, most of them at Petawawa, Ontario. None were ever charged with a criminal offence. Remarkably, the former internees are not bitter as they look back on the way their own country treated them.