Posts Tagged ‘NFB’

Duck and Cover

March 9, 2009

Vodpod videos no longer available. more about “If You Love This Planet by Terre Nash…“, posted with vodpod

This 1982 video is a stark reminder of the reality of nuclear annihilation that reached its zenith during the Cold War.  Dr. Helen Caldicott was exetremly passionate about nuclear proliferation.  Although it is a long film (25 minutes) it is worth a watch, especially for those who don’t know much about life before 1991.

I think it could be argued that the potential for an all out nuclear war has greatly diminished in the last 20 or so years.  It is certainly possible that India and Pakistan, or perhaps the U.S. and a future Russia could engage in some limited attacks using hydrogen bombs, but it is not likely.  Since the end of the Cold War, and particularly in the last few years, nations have generally backed off their efforts to create massive weapons which are capable of killing millions or billions of people.  This is partly due to the new relationships between larger world powers, such as the occasionally tenuous relationship between the U.S. and Putin’s Russia.  But the emergence of terrorism as the main opponent in global conflicts has also been a major factor.  Nuclear weapons are essentially useless in fighting an enemy who works in small numbers and without held territory.

The National Film Board of Canada featured this video on its main page in part to highlight International Women’s Day and the role of women in changing the world. Certainly Dr. Caldicott’s battle against nuclear proliferation is a shining example.  I have chosen to embed this video because it is a reminder of what life was like just 20 years ago, when many humans feared for the future of the species.  Now we are more afraid of killer viruses, asteroid collisions and limited terrorist attacks than ICBM’s with megaton payloads.  I’m not sure which alternative is better, but I do know I hate the vision of the future painted by Dr. Caldicott.

If You’ve Got A Dream Like Mine

February 21, 2009

In this great land is one of the best rivers in the world. The beauty of the countryside cannot be overpraised, for the fertility of the soil, the extent of the forests, and the opportunities for hunting and fishing in abundance. All these things hold out their arms to you.

Samuel de Champlain

quoted in Dreams of a Land

Directed by Robert Doucet
Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Dreams of a Land by Robert Doucet, – NFB“, posted with vodpod

I have once again chosen to embed a short video for your enjoyment. This National Film Board documentary about Samuel de Champlain is both informative and creative. The story is told quickly, with an emphasis on Champlain’s dreams, ambitions, and struggles. The animation, which resembles crayon sketches, stirs the imagination and refuses to fill in all of the blanks. Perhaps the most intriguing part of the story is Champlain’s willingness first to travel back and forth to France for supplies each year to support his search for the Pacific Ocean, and second his desire to stay in Canada even after many of his men had died, and the “Great Sea” turned out to just be another freshwater lake. Here was a man who fell in love with this land, as the quote above demonstrates. As someone who has always loved history, particularly from the period of exploration, I find stories like Champlain’s to be both exciting and nightmarish. I can’t fathom watching my colleagues die from scurvy in the dead of a seemingly endless winter because our food has run out or frozen. I can’t imagine the punishing portages over difficult terrain, and the immense disappointment at failing to find a passage to India. But I can fall in love with the spirit of adventure, perserverance, courage, and self sacrafice that drew men like Champlain to cross the Atlantic in the first place, and to set up settlements in unforgiving climates, when life in France might have been more comfortable. No doubt the native peoples played an important part in ensuring the survival of colonists, and I certainly wish they had been treated better. As winter refuses to leave on a cold February day, I think it’s important to remember all those Native, French, British, or Dutch who endured the winters for centuries both out of necessity, and a love for this land.

The Very Next Day

January 23, 2009

For he goes whirling down, and down whitewater, that’s where the log driver learns to tread lightly.

The Log Driver’s Waltz

I don’t often feature news on this site, but this morning I was watching CP24 and found out that one of my dreams had come true. The National Film Board of Canada was finally featuring many of its vast collection of films for viewing on the internet.  This afternoon I have been enjoying such classics as The Log Driver’s Waltz, and The Cat Came Back. I have also been discovering new films. For those of you unfamiliar with the NFB, it is a public institution dating back to the 1930’s and has been particularly influential in the promotion of Canadian animation, as the two shorts above demonstrate.

NFB films have won Academy awards in the foreign documentary category, and have left a significant mark on Canadian culture. I recommend taking some time to browse through the collection, and I will be taking a deeper look at many of this films in future posts.

One of the more controversial films, Neighbours, is regularly shown on Moviepix here in Canada.  So this was not my first viewing of it.  I now understand the context of the film, and the filmaker’s (Norman Mclaren) purpose in making it.  One of my friends commented that “if I were the type to get high I would get high to this,” which sums up the strangeness of the live action stop motion technique Mclaren uses.  He took the method usually reserved for creating claymation monsters and characters, and used it with live actors.  It allows him to move his characters about in strange and trippy ways, and facilitates his storytelling.  There is no dialogue in the film, but the action leaves little to the imagination. We have two men fighting over a flower that grows on their property line, and seems to have hallucinogenic qualities.  It is an obvious allegory for war, and when it was produced in 1952 the reality of armed conflict was still fresh from WWII and the ongoing Korean war, not to mention the growing Cold War with the Soviet Union.  It violently and vivdly portrays the futillity of fighting, in a way that is both shocking and thought provoking.  Although the effects are amateurish by modern standards, this cutting edge film succeeds at its experiment and at its message.  Well worth a look.

Beyond the Big Cities

December 31, 2008

WHen I’m making a sketch I try to emphasize the things I want and ignore the things I don’t want.

A.Y. Jackson

Canadian Landscapes

I’m sitting down today and watching a 1941 National Film Board documentary called Canadian Landscapes.  This is the story of Group of Seven painter A.Y. Jackson, and his work.  Specifically, it deals with a canoe trip into the north.  The north here is Northern Ontario.

We bgin with a history, geography and art history lesson.  Early paintings of the Canadian North were done by Europeans in a European style.  Then came Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven.  The film gives a quick overview, with examples, of thie thoroughly Canadian art movement.  Alexander Young Jackson makes his appearance.  He looks very good for a man of his age, and is identified as the leading landscape artists of his time.  We find him working in Toronto in a building that was built for Canadian artists.  Apparently he lives in a shack with a mining prospector.  He paintswearing a tie, which is an interesting touch.

As Jackson and his companion prepare for the journey north he hopes into a canoe dressed like a coureur de bois.  It is autumn so the trees are colourful.  Since it is 1940 their tent is simple canvas, not the high tech synthetics you found on campgrounds around North America these days.

The image of an artist working in the bush is at first striking and contradictory. After all, while art often seems delicate and careful, the Canada north is rugged and dangerous. Jackson climbs on top of the Canadian Shield to overlook the river he has just travelled. The narration gives a fantastic description of the method and meaning of his work.

It is very useful to be able to watch the painting and the scene juxtaposed, so we can understand the way the artist manipulates his view to create the art.  The quote at the top of this post sums up the general Group of Seven style quite well.  It’s not about caturing exactly what is there, as A.Y. Jackson says, the scene is “the starting point” for the artists interpretation.

I should note that Jackson is working in the area of Grace Lake, Ontario at this point. Next we travel to St. Tite de Caps, in Quebec. It is spring time, though the snow is still omnpresent.  Whereas in Northern Ontario Jackson focused on the hills and trees, in Quebec he turns his attention to the barns and other elements of rural life along the St. Lawrence.  He paints little scenes as he snowshoes through the woods and fields of this tiny village.  The narrator notes the difference in Jackson’s work here in Quebec. With painting done for the day Jackson plays cards with his French-Canadian friends.

This film is intended to demonstrate and explain Jackson’s process of creating finished works.  He is constantly changing his paintings as he gains a greater understanding of the landscape he experienced.  I have to say that the work is absolutely stunning.  The variety of paintings featured shows a breadth of Jackson’s creations I was not familiar with until now.

We are taken on a visual journey across the country, a feature all NFB documentaries should contain.  The narrator speaks of the vast untamed wilderness beyond settled Canada. Although people have since encroached upon more of this space, much of it remains open and empty of human touch.  Still the work of A.Y. Jackson, and this film record of his efforts stands as a reminder of what was once the very definition of Canada.