Short films, court métrages and more from up north
January 22, 2009 3:21 AM   Subscribe

Mentioned here earlier in its beta form, Canada's National Film Board has released the bulk of its films online, for free, in the NFB Screening Room. With hundreds of films from the 1920s onwards, including groundbreaking work by animator Norman McLaren, documentaries, dramas, bizarre anti-smoking (or pro-smoking?) screeds and much, much more, it's a breathtaking trove of amazing film to be discovered from north of the 49th.

Personal favourites:
The Sweater, the story of a young Quebecer's crushing blow due to the malfeasance of the Eaton's catalogue;
Waterwalker, a feature-length documentary about one man and his canoe;
Cartoons by Zlatko Grgic, a master of comic timing;
Our Northern Neighbour (1944), a short film about how awesome it is to be allied with the Soviets and how nothing can possibly go wrong with that plan. See also Inside Fighting China (1942);
Carts of Darkness, a recent documentary about homeless people who have turned cash recycling into an extreme sport.

How can one viewer manage all this content? I recommend the Playlists, a section of the site where guest "curators" present a selection of NFB films around certain themes.

I should note that the site launched yesterday or the day before, and their servers seem to be getting slaughtered -- connections are somewhat spotty, and YMMV but bookmarking the site and the films you want to check out and coming back to it in a couple of weeks might be more fruitful than "stalling out" halfway through a 60-minute documentary.
posted by Shepherd (53 comments total) 70 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thanks for this. I seem to remember from my days of attending silent and pre 1940s films that a lot of the older, rarer prints of films thought lost forever came from Canada. Something about cold temperatures helping out nitrate film stock, despite the possibility of water damage. When you think that something like 90% of all films shot before 1940 are lost forever, it's pretty amazing to see an online archive of any depth.
posted by Grrlscout at 4:01 AM on January 22, 2009


Wow! Many thanks, Shepherd. Time for an overdose of nostalgia for this boy who grew up in the sixties and seventies, when NFB films were a staple of Canadian education. Unfortunately, Paddle to the Sea doesn't seem to be there yet.

Does anyone remember the title of the film where the old geezer is paddling his canoe and time switches back and forth between different geological eras? The scenes I remember are one in which his canoe suddenly drops a few hundred feet, and another where he dips his tin cup into what is originally pristine water only to be switched in time to the present and scoop up a cupful of foamy pollution.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 4:10 AM on January 22, 2009


Crap! Forgot to mention:

The Cat Came Back, some lunatic genius by Cordell Barker, and
The Log Driver's Waltz, which is three minutes of sheer joy.

Of all the abovelinked material, it's The Log Driver's Waltz that gives me the most happies. Even more than The Sweater.
posted by Shepherd at 4:14 AM on January 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


So ridiculously great.

Thanks for sharing!
posted by defenestration at 4:16 AM on January 22, 2009


The 'Ockey Sweater! Excellent. This little story is a Canadian national treasure, it is even on the back of our $5 bill. When people want to understand what Canada is all about, you can't go wrong with this film.

Is the "Hinterland Who's Who" stuff here as well? Not sure if that stuff was from NFB or not.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:30 AM on January 22, 2009


How cool. I remember reading The Sweater in school at some point in the hazy past that was my formative years.
posted by acro at 4:33 AM on January 22, 2009


The NFB is a national treasure, and this will help more people access their films. Thanks!
posted by Artful Codger at 4:50 AM on January 22, 2009


Is the "Hinterland Who's Who" stuff here as well?

I don't know, but they're here.
posted by pracowity at 5:05 AM on January 22, 2009


(For more information on the woodchuck, contact the Canadian Wildlife Service in Ottawa.)
posted by pracowity at 5:09 AM on January 22, 2009


And

Blackfly (with song by Wade Hemsworth)
If You Love This Planet (anti-nuclear film that captures the worry of early eighties Canadians)
Cosmic Zoom (a trippy short film about scale)

Nothing more will get done at my house now.
posted by leftoverboy at 5:15 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow. Some very important ethnographic films on Inuit culture are in the NFB collection. This rocks, thank you.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:45 AM on January 22, 2009


Ah, but I just checked and at least one classic -- Boulton's "Eskimo Summer" -- is not available in online form, yet.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:50 AM on January 22, 2009


Waterwalker is a terrific film. Bill Mason, the filmmaker and subject, was the author of several much loved books on canoeing (Path of the Paddle, Song of the Paddle). There's a sequence toward the end of him canoeing and dragging his canoe across the ice of Lake Superior in the winter, when he falls through and into the water (my memory is slightly vague here), and the next few minutes are just one long shot of him desperately trying to get to shore before hypothermia kills him. It's one of the most gripping sequences I've ever seen in a non-fiction film. Wonderful film, great post. Thanks.
posted by rodii at 5:54 AM on January 22, 2009


Oh my god, this is the single greatest day of my life.
AAAAAAA+++++ would read this post again!!!1!!
(seriously, thanks for posting this)
posted by NoMich at 5:57 AM on January 22, 2009


Was this inspired by the mention of Boards of Canada a couple posts back?

This is so cool.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:14 AM on January 22, 2009


Nothing, but nothing, beats The Big Snit.
posted by the dief at 6:19 AM on January 22, 2009


Good to see Hot Stuff already linked to, it was always one of my family's absolute favourites...

("Can you pass the cream please?")
posted by opsin at 6:41 AM on January 22, 2009


Good to see Hot Stuff already linked to, it was always one of my family's absolute favourites...

Mine too. (from memory: "I think I'll wait for a hot mouse...A 'mouse flambeau'!")
posted by Turtles all the way down at 6:49 AM on January 22, 2009


Very nice. I hope they put up The Railrodder soon.
posted by caddis at 6:53 AM on January 22, 2009


How wonderful that Hot Stuff was brought to us by "The Dominion Fire Commissioner."
posted by Turtles all the way down at 6:55 AM on January 22, 2009


Hmmm, can't seem to find Brad Caslor's great animated short Get A Job there.

And not NFB, but John Minnis's Oscar-winning Sheridan College graduation project Charade still makes me laugh.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 6:57 AM on January 22, 2009


The Cat Came Back creeped the hell out of me for years. Years! I've never forgiven the NFB.
posted by aramaic at 7:01 AM on January 22, 2009


YouTube brought Cat Came Back back into my life after a long, long absence, but I'm still thrilled to see it again. Thanks!
posted by SpiffyRob at 7:38 AM on January 22, 2009


Does anyone remember the title of the film where the old geezer is paddling his canoe and time switches back and forth between different geological eras?

That was The Rise and Fall of the Great Lakes, and I didn't see it here. It's another Bill Mason Film.
posted by rocket88 at 7:41 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, thanks for the mentions of "Hot Stuff". All I could remember from that film was "mouse flambeau" and could never recall it's actual title. Looking forward to seeing it again! (Along with "The Big Snit", "The Cat Came Back", "Blackfly", ...)
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:47 AM on January 22, 2009


Seconding the person who said the NFB is a national treasure. My very first MeFi post was about The Devil At Your Heels, one of the best (feature-length) documentaries I've ever seen:

"The late Ken Carter's long-time obsession to be the world's greatest daredevil is the subject of this feature-length documentary. Seen are the five years of preparation that went into raising one million dollars, building a rocket-powered car, and constructing a ten-storey take-off ramp for his attempt to jump a car across a mile-wide stretch of the St. Lawrence River. A portrait of a stunt driver who made his living by risking his life.

There are highlights available on YouTube, but if at all possible you should see the whole thing.

Sadly, it doesn't look like Paddle To The Sea (another Bill Mason joint) is available for viewing.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:47 AM on January 22, 2009


just yesterday i was trying to think of ways to bring the joy of waterwalker and the big snit to my girlfriend's virgin eyes.

prayers answered!!
posted by klanawa at 7:54 AM on January 22, 2009


Before there was CGI and "Toy Story", there was Grant Munro's "Toys", which scared the living poop out of me when I was a teenager, and still does.
posted by Mike D at 8:00 AM on January 22, 2009


Hmm, I tried to visit, and fear they've succumbed to the MeFi/Slahshdot effect.
Bookmarked for later.
posted by uncorq at 8:44 AM on January 22, 2009


Yeah, their server is getting hammered.

Also, they do not appear to have Dance.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:43 AM on January 22, 2009


Awesome. Canadians who haven't seen "The Hockey Sweater" or "Logdriver's Waltz" should have their passports revoked.

"The Man Who Planted Trees" was produced by Radio-Canada so it may be in there somewhere. The server seems to be having issues though.
posted by GuyZero at 9:57 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hey Guys - I've been working on the site for the last year. Thanks for all the awesome comments.

Here's a list of upcoming films for the next few months. And yes, Railrodder is set for February.
posted by paperfingers at 11:12 AM on January 22, 2009 [7 favorites]


Awesome job, paperfingers; Bravo!

(and get Paddle to the Sea in there, would you?)
posted by Turtles all the way down at 11:18 AM on January 22, 2009


Thanks so much for all your hard work, paperfingers! I had no idea a MeFite was involved!

I'm sure any input you have into the process (and your server load) would be very welcome!
posted by Shepherd at 11:31 AM on January 22, 2009


Note to our southern neighbours: Canadians feel about the NFB films as you feel about Schoolhouse Rock.

And The Beaver, by the Canadian Wildlife Service, in Ottawa? That's like "Three is a magic number," squared.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 11:33 AM on January 22, 2009


Last time the wife and I where in Toronto we discovered the NFB had a screening room downtown where you get a private chair and screen and can search & call up just about any NFB film to watch, suffice to say that was a whole day shot. Oh, and how we discovered Norman McLaren, Ryan Larkin and the movie/film "Ryan" (about Larkin), which is pretty amazing the first time you see it.
posted by edgeways at 11:58 AM on January 22, 2009


La Salla!

(Same guy as The Big Snit.)

Totally, completely awesome.
posted by kristi at 12:55 PM on January 22, 2009


Finally. Now if we could only get the CBC to do the same with it's radio archives.
posted by converge at 1:24 PM on January 22, 2009


And of course, penguins don't just march.
posted by Mike D at 1:41 PM on January 22, 2009


Now if we could only get the CBC to do the same with it's radio archives.

I would kill for a full radio archive of Frantic Times. I talked to Rick Green about it years ago, and he was under the impression that a significant percentage of the tapes had been lost/destroyed, which distressed me greatly.
posted by Shepherd at 2:04 PM on January 22, 2009


Oh wow. I saw The Cat Came Back when I visited Toronto ten years ago and was totally blown away by it. Not been able to track it down since (not that I've tried that hard to be fair). Thank you so much for this.
posted by motty at 5:00 PM on January 22, 2009


And yes, Railrodder is set for February.

Yay! This is such a beautiful little film. Buster Keaton really shines here. Highly recommended if only for the beautiful trip through the wonders of Canada, and then Buster, well he can still make you laugh and think at this advanced point in his life.
posted by caddis at 6:02 PM on January 22, 2009


I've barely looked at mefi today because I was all over the NFB sight after seeing the press release. And then I come here and find everyone else was there too! This is so cool that they are doing this. I didn't have any server problems so I must have been the one sucking up everyone else's bandwith.
posted by saucysault at 7:16 PM on January 22, 2009


sight = site. Too much watching, no enough typing today.
posted by saucysault at 7:17 PM on January 22, 2009


This is part of what makes Canada cool. I ♥ the Government-sponsored Arts.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:22 PM on January 22, 2009


I want CBC Radio to release The Dead Dog Cafe Comedy Hour. I miss Jasper Friendlybear and Tom and Gracie.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:29 PM on January 22, 2009


The Hockey Sweater!! I love it and missed it!
posted by aclevername at 11:32 PM on January 22, 2009


Oh, and:

Is the "Hinterland Who's Who" stuff here as well?

The best Hinterland film.
posted by aclevername at 11:50 PM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


paperfingers, you are going to heaven. Thank you.

One request, and it is VITAL: The Devil At Your Heels. The Devil At Your Heels. The Devil At Your Heels.

That is all.
posted by Bobby Bittman at 6:34 AM on January 23, 2009


I want CBC Radio to release The Dead Dog Cafe Comedy Hour.

Buy it on CD like we did... ?

In some cases the shows are independently produced and the CBC only has limited broadcast rights (as I understand it). The DDC is no more government property than tapes of Maple Leafs home games.
posted by GuyZero at 9:34 AM on January 23, 2009


Strange Invaders was featured in the first year of Don Hertzfeldt's Animation Show.
posted by furtive at 7:54 PM on January 23, 2009


If DDC wasn't produced using CBC's money, then I'm cool with CBC not releasing it. ('cause, well, duh. It would only make sense.)

The book the radio series was based on is now on my priority reading list. I didn't realize that that's how it all began. I fully expect to laugh my ass off.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:13 PM on January 23, 2009


The Great Eastern is online in all of its glory. I LOVED that show.
posted by salishsea at 1:03 PM on January 25, 2009


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