Discover the fascinating people and unique places found in the Prairies, as seen in this series of half-hour episodes from the WEST television series.
This short documentary focuses on prairie sculptor Joe Fafard. If there's one thing Joe knows, it's cows. He knows the way they tuck in their forelegs to lie down to ruminate and the way a calf romps in the barnyard. He also knows his friends and neighbours in the farming community of Pense, Saskatchewan—and he sculpts them all in clay, as eloquent and quirky miniatures. Joe's work has been exhibited throughout Canada as well as in Paris and New York, and this film offers a glimpse into his process, his aesthetic, and the charming prairie community in which he lives.
This documentary short introduces us to Bob Keen, a Northwest legend and self-made millionaire. Bob began his career bulldozing mountain roads with a second-hand caterpillar tractor that gave him his nickname: Catskinner. Now he owns oil land, operates road, water and air transport, flies a plane, drives a chuckwagon, and is listed on the stock exchange. This film profiles a modest man who still likes sitting by a campfire with old cowpuncher pals in the Canadian Rockies.
At twenty-six, Noel Starblanket was one of the youngest Indigenous chiefs in North America--twice elected chief of the Starblanket Reserve, and also elected vice-president of all-Saskatchewan Indigenous organization. His great-grandfather's advice was to "learn the wit and cunning of the White man." That he did. Here he is seen in action, a chief with a briefcase, working with government officials for grants, running for public office, talking down his opposition, and solving the domestic problems of his reserve.
Filmed in the Canadian Rockies and in Garibaldi Park, this documentary features magnificent footage of mountain solitudes and the wildlife found there, of natural splendour in all its changing moods. The film carries the implicit warning that all this may pass away if people do not seek to preserve it. Without words.
This short documentary zooms in on Churchill, Manitoba, on the western curve of Hudson Bay. The town boomed for a while after it became the railhead seaport for the shipment of Prairie grain. It also changed the way of life of the First Nations and Inuit population. "Four levels of government," says one, "and the town's biggest industry is the liquor store." In this film, local inhabitants say what they think of the changes and why they decided to stay when others moved on.
Please note that this is an archival film that makes use of the word “Eskimo,” an outdated and offensive term. While the origin of the word is a matter of some contention, it is no longer used in Canada. The term was formally rejected by the Inuit Circumpolar Council in 1980 and has subsequently not been in use at the NFB for decades. This film is therefore a time-capsule of a bygone era, presented in its original version. The NFB apologizes for the offence caused.
This short documentary examines how 7 farm families in Lestock, Saskatchewan, have pooled their resources so that rising operating costs will not drive them off their land. By pooling their land, their equipment, their livestock, and farming as a cooperative, they are able to live as they choose, to maintain their standard of living, and even to have some spare time left over to enjoy. An engaging look at a novel approach to big-scale farming.
This documentary short introduces us to The Badlanders, an Alberta band from the Drumheller area. When hard times came to southern Alberta during the 1930s, a generation of young musicians turned to their instruments to lighten the gloom and earn extra money by playing at Saturday night country dances. The film invites you to meet and listen to members of the original band, as well as some members of the younger generation who just don't dig the country music vibe.
This short documentary takes us to St. John's Cathedral Boys' School, at Selkirk, Manitoba, one of the most demanding outdoor schools in North America. As the school can’t accommodate every student wishing to enroll, boys of 13 to 15 years old are put through an initiation tougher than they have ever faced. They paddle canoes through some 500 kilometers of wilderness in 2 weeks, portaging and camping all the way, thereby learning vital outdoor lore, cooperation and self-confidence.The school opened in 1962 on the former Dynevor Indian Hospital, which was operated by the Anglican Church from 1896-1957. In the decades following the release of this film the school was the subject of multiple lawsuits pertaining to sexual assaults that occurred there and even student deaths due to its arduous outdoor activities.
Viewer Advisory: This film contains scenes of animal slaughter.
This short documentary profiles Ruth and Harriet, two women in their thirties who live in the Peace River area of northern Alberta. Strongly individualistic, Ruth and Harriet care for their families and homesteads in a manner as self-reliant as that of any pioneer of the past. The river, the bush, and the wildlife make up their true home. This film offers a portrait of a uniquely Canadian rural landscape and lifestyle.
Fishermen fly in from the concrete jungles of New York and Chicago to Lac La Ronge in northern Saskatchewan for "the best freshwater fishing in the world." In a few days they want to catch the biggest and the most. Five or six plane-loads of fishermen arrive every day during the peak season, all with this same ambition. Indigenous guides, on the receiving end of the pressure, feel they have to go on strike occasionally. Van Bliss, the bluff and affable host of the camp, is caught in the middle of this head-on meeting between two vastly different cultures.
This documentary short is a cinematic recording of Tales from a Prairie Drifter, a stage comedy about the North-West Resistance during the opening of the Canadian West. Highlighting the roles of Louis Riel, the Resistance leader, prime minister Sir John A. Macdonald and General Middleton, who was sent to quell the uprising, the play defines the First nations and Métis cause more succinctly than many history books. Here, the play is performed by the Regina Globe Theatre before an Indigineous audience of First Nations and Métis, whose reactions are recorded.