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Today I bring you another National Film Board of Canada short film. This one is new to me, but I absolutely love it’s treatment of history. Kern and I had a conversation on the podcast about modern documentaries and how many of them have taken the reality TV approach to teaching science and history. I think that reality TV has convinced show producers that people crave extreme emotion. Thus when telling an historical tale, the dramatic elements must be exaggerated, and the narrator must make every event seem like the most dire and important occurrence in history. Perhaps educational television is being made by those who sat at the back of history class and fell asleep. At least they assume that everyone else was that person.
This 1978 Richard Condie documentary takes a fairly obscure piece of French history (oddly appropriate now though), adds a delightful cartoon, and creates a compelling story. Besides being a lesson in speculation and currency, it is also, in my opinion, a superior method of teaching history. The story is not over-dramatized besides the occasional comic cartoon foible. Instead the story is presented mostly as it occured (though simplification is always a part of any documentary story), and without any unnecessary appeals to extreme emotion. I think many of today’s documentary filmmakers could learn from this and other NFB docs.
One more question, shouldn’t cartoons play a bigger role in our education system? This doc shows how using imaginative animation can liven up a bit of financial history. Just a thought.