Free Films from Canada’s Finest

January 22, 2009

The National Film Board, Canada’s, uh, national film board, has decided to make its archive available free, online.

This is amazing news. NFB documentaries formed a major cornerstone of my journalism education, as we picked them apart to look at how reporting in this country had evolved through the 1950s, 60s and 70s. A lot of them are very serious. A lot of them are very fun. And at least one, Norman McLaren’s Neighbours (1952), is a pioneering piece of cinema.

NFB chairman Tom Perlutter told reporters yesterday that the general public has a hard time seeing NFB films — they tend to turn up on late-night TV, or in obscure theatres. The whole point of making these movies, he argues, is that they be seen. And he’s right. You won’t find them in Blockbuster, but man, over the past 70 years the NFB has made many films that deserve to be seen.

And not just by Canadians, although more Canadians should see them. People around the world need to experience these films to get a better idea of Canada and Canadians. They are our identity on celluloid, our legacy.

Here are some of my favourite NFB films:

  • Neighbours: I can’t describe it. You have to watch it.
  • High Steel: From 1965, this documentary short takes you up skeletal skyscrapers to meet the Mohawk workers who specialized in one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.
  • The Big Snit: A fun animated short. This gets played all the time on TV here when a movie ends with a few minutes to spare before Growing Pains reruns.
  • Beaver Family: A Grey Owl documentary from 1929. No sign of Pierce Brosnan. This is a silent film, which makes it all the more poignant.

One comment

  1. I just saw Neighbours … it’s fantastic! I especially loved the animation-style technique and the freaky music. Thanks for the recommendation!

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