Thursday, May 24, 2007

Top 5 NFB Films

The National Film Board has made a significant impact on Canadian cinema. Every Canadian has seen at least one film from the NFB. If you haven't seen an NFB film, you can head down to the board's Toronto studios, sit in a "Mediatheque" viewing station and watch as many films as you want.

I enjoy watching NFB films. Seeing that well known logo (the eye with two legs) always catches my attention.

Recently, I found a couple of films on YouTube and decided to compile a list of my favourite NFB productions. After much thought and deliberation, here are my top five NFB films.

First off, honourable mention: If You Love This Planet (1982), Neighbours (1952), Blackberry Subway Jam (1984).

5. Begone Dull Care (1949)

To the untrained eye, Begone Dull Care appears to have a simple concept: draw all over the film and add some music. However, to the trained eye, the production is more then just an attack on a empty roll of film with crayons and paint brushes. Evelyn Lambart and Norman McLaren create a beautiful union of moving images with music. Keep in mind the music is by Oscar Peterson, which means a fast-paced, quick-beat score. Therefore, there's a lot of action that needs to be translated on screen. It takes great skill to make a film like Begone Dull Care. However, if you can pull it off, the result will be an animated masterpiece.

4. Nobody Waved Goodbye (1964)

I guess Writer and Director Don Owen got tired of making documentaries. So he decided to make a feature film. Since he had no experience filming fiction, Owen shot Nobody Waved Goodbye as if it was a documentary. The consequence of this decision was a Canadian style of feature film making. The film also provides a hard dose or reality.

Remember, this was the early 60's and everyone believes life should be like "Leave It To Beaver." Nobody Waved Goodbye gives conformity a swift slap in the face.

3. The Sweater (1980)

I've cheered for the Montreal Canadiens my entire life. As a young boy, I kept hearing the name Maurice Richard, but I didn't know who he was. Then, I saw this film in my grade three french class and understood who he was and what he meant to so many people. The Sweater taught me how this man known as the Rocket, was a folk hero and a hockey legend. After seeing this film, even I wanted to tape my stick like Maurice Richard.

2. Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen (1965)

Leonard Cohen is the subject of this film. What more do I need to say? Plus, you get to hear what he really sounds like before all those cigarettes gave him the raspy voice he has today. Even when Cohen orders a cheese sandwich and a glass of milk it sounds poetic.

1. Log Driver's Waltz (1979)

I first saw this film/vignette in 1994. The NFB had an exhibition at the CNE and was presenting random productions throughout the day in an auditorium. I was very fortunate to be there when they showed Log Driver's Waltz. It's a snapshot of Canadian folklore. It expresses what life was like when our country was young.

Everyone who lived during that time wanted to emulate their British and French ancestors. However, there was a desire for people to develop their own way of life, a Canadian way of life. You get a sense of this in Log Driver's Waltz. There's an upper class woman who is told she should emulate those who have come before her, by marrying a doctor, lawyer or any other wealthy elite. However, this woman wants to make her own decisions and hopes that she will marry a log driver, who of course, doesn't come with the same type of status as a doctor or lawyer.

Plus there's the actual song. How can you not love the song? The tune will get stuck in your head for a number of days, but it's absolutely worth it.

For more information on these films and others, visit

The Hek

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