Site Specifics: National Film Board of Canada
By Paul Fileri
Get up close and personal with Canadian culture
The National Film Board of Canada celebrated its 70th anniversary with a website overhaul. Over 1,000 films, clips, and trailers from its extensive collection—particularly strong in the documentary department—are now available via free streaming video. Though the NFB may no longer be synonymous with artistic innovation and liberal social commitment, it’s become one of the more significant Web presences among national film institutions.
The best reason to visit is to rediscover the archival riches produced by what founder John Grierson called the “Eyes of Canada,” which includes not only its canon of artistically innovative landmarks but also the many half-forgotten and fascinating films focusing on the routine scientific rhetoric of welfare-state governance and citizenship-building. NFB’s Head of Interactive Services, Joel Pomerlau, who counts Pour la suite du monde (63) and the groundbreaking Sixties cinéma direct of Pierre Perrault, Michel Brault, and Gilles Groulx among his favorites, credits the site’s success to the online “playlists” carefully curated by collection analysts Marc St-Pierre and Albert Ohayon. The notable films on offer include essentials by Norman McLaren, Don Owen, Colin Low, Arthur Lipsett, and Alanis Obomsawin. To single out one gem, take Roman Kroitor’s documentary short Paul Tomkowicz: Street-railway Switchman (53), a beautifully shot and unforgettably intimate nine-minute portrait of an aging Polish immigrant worker on the nightshift. With its new online cinematheque and a pair of recent and upcoming tributes (The Memory of Angels, Luc Bourdon’s lyrical found-footage film devoted to images of Montreal in the golden years of the Fifties and Sixties, and a new short called Night Mayor, currently in production, by Guy Maddin), the NFB is regaining its prominence, even as it struggles to secure sufficient funding.
Go to www.nfb.ca