In the first part of a new series we’re looking at online video platforms available in Canada which feature alumni projects for your viewing pleasure. Some are free, others require sign-up and some are paid subscriptions which you probably have already.
Today we’ve dug deep into the free content at nfb.ca.
Ballads Not Bullets: Tom Jackson | 2014, 7 mins
Marie Clements (NSI Storytellers, Featuring Aboriginal Stories Program)
The story of how actor, singer, producer and activist Tom Jackson came to use his gift of song to contribute millions of dollars to the fight against poverty and homelessness.
Ben Heppner: Moving Through Music | 2016, 5 mins
Randall Okita (NSI Diverse TV Director)
An insight into the singing prowess of renowned tenor Ben Heppner, one of Canada’s pre-eminent musical ambassadors.
Michael J. Fox | 2017, 4 mins
John Bolton (NSI Drama Prize, NSI Totally Television)
A candid and charming interview features stories about some of Michael J. Fox’s best-loved characters and the process of bringing them to life, shedding light on what drives him as a performer, writer and pop-culture icon.
Radical | 2019, 6 mins
Deanne Foley (NSI Totally Television)
Deanne Foley profiles fellow Newfoundlander Mary Walsh, the Great Warrior Queen of Canadian comedy, musing on time wasted as an object of desire and time well spent as the fearless agent of her own destiny. A joyous call to action.
Sandra Oh, Inspiration | 2019, 4 mins
Karen Lam (NSI Drama Prize, NSI Totally Television)
Inspired by Sandra Oh’s words and actions, director Karen Lam experiments with the concept of representation in the performing arts.
How People Got Fire | 2008, 16 mins
Daniel Janke (NSI Global Marketing)
This introspective short animation takes place in the village of Carcross in the Tagish First Nation. Neighbourhood pillar Grandma Kay tells the local children the tale of how Crow brought fire to people. As the story unfolds, we also meet 12-year-old Tish, an introspective, talented girl who feels drawn to the elder. Here, past and present blend, myth and reality meet, and the metaphor of fire infuses all in a location that lies at the heart of this Native community’s spiritual and cultural memory.
U.F.O. | 2016, 1 min
Rayne Vermette (NSI IndigiDocs)
An apparition reveals itself through celluloid and transmits vestiges of a forgotten provenance.
Vistas – Dancers of the Grass | 2009, 2 mins
Melanie Jackson (NSI Storytellers)
A stunning display of a stop-motion animation as it vividly depicts the majesty of the hoop dance, a tradition symbolizing the unity of all nations.
Vistas – The Visit | 2009, 4 mins
Lisa Jackson (Featuring Aboriginal Stories Program)
This animated short tells the true story of a Cree family’s strange encounter one winter night, which results in a conversation beyond words.
Birth of a Family | 2016, 79 mins
Tasha Hubbard (NSI IndigiDocs)
In this deeply moving feature-length documentary, three sisters and a brother meet for the first time. Removed from their young Dene mother during the infamous Sixties Scoop, they were separated as infants and adopted into families across North America.
| 2016, 13 mins
Justin Simms (NSI Drama Prize)
Set in the coldest waters surrounding Newfoundland’s rugged Fogo Island, this short film follows a group of ‘people of the fish’ – traditional fishers who catch cod live by hand, one at a time, by hook and line.
Lake | 2019, 5 mins
Alexandra Lazarowich (NSI IndigiDocs)
Cree director Alexandra Lazarowich riffs off classic verité cinema to craft a contemporary portrait of Métis women net fishing in northern Alberta.
Nimmikaage (She Dances for People) | 2015, 3 mins
Michelle Latimer (NSI Drama Prize)
Both a requiem for and an honouring of Canada’s First Nations, Métis and Inuit women, this short film deconstructs the layers of Canadian nationalism. In the process, it reverses the colonial lens by shifting the balance of power to reclaim the Canadian narrative, putting the enduring strength and resilience of Indigenous women at the forefront.
Picture This | 2017, 33 mins
Jari Osborne (NSI DiverseTV)
What does it mean to be disabled and desirable? Meet Andrew Gurza, a self-described ‘queer cripple’ who has made it his mission to make sex and disability part of the public discourse.
Second Stories – Deb-we-win Ge-ken-am-aan, Our Place in the Circle | 2008, 22 mins
Lorne Olson (NSI Aboriginal Journalism)
Lorne Olson’s short documentary presents a vision he had of two-spirited people dancing, laughing and smiling. His vision spurs him to rediscover the strength of the past to better face the challenges of today.
Speakers for the Dead | 2000, 49 mins
Jennifer Holness (NSI Drama Prize, Telefilm Canada Spark Plug Program, NSI Global Marketing), Sudz Sutherland (NSI Totally Television)
In the 1930s in rural Ontario, a farmer buried the tombstones of a black cemetery to make way for a potato patch. In the 1980s, descendants of the original settlers, black and white, came together to restore the cemetery, but there were hidden truths no-one wanted to discuss. Deep racial wounds were opened. Scenes of the cemetery excavation, interviews with residents and re-enactments – including one of a baseball game where a broken headstone is used for home plate – add to the film’s emotional intensity.
The Amendment | 2007, 4 mins
Kevin Papatie (Featuring Aboriginal Stories Program)
In the Kitcisakik community, the Algonquin language is dying out, just four generations after the federal government’s assimilation policy came into effect.
Tommy Douglas – Keeper of the Flame | 1986, 58 mins
Elise Swerhone (NSI DramaLab)
This feature documentary traces the political career of T.C. (Tommy) Douglas, former premier of Saskatchewan and leader of the New Democratic Party, who was voted the Greatest Canadian in 2004 for his devotion to social causes, his charm and his powers of persuasion. Known as the ‘Father of Medicare,’ this one-time champion boxer and fiery preacher entered politics in the 1930s and never looked back.
Unveiled: The Mother Daughter Relationship | 1997 | 55 mins
Maureen Judge (NSI Global Marketing)
This documentary dares to untangle the complicated web of mother/daughter relationships. Fraught with love, anger, compassion, laughter, and joy, these relationships are already intense. Imagine what happens when you throw a wedding into the mix.
Urban.Indigenous.Proud: Places to Gather and Learn | 2018, 10 mins
Darlene Naponse (NSI Features First)
A day in the lives of Indigenous students at N’Swakamok Alternative School, Places to Gather and Learn emphasizes the value and necessity of Indigenous alternative and community spaces. Follows students as they learn and share their stories, aspirations, obstacles and accomplishments.
Vistas: Boxed in | 2009, 4 mins
Shane Belcourt (NSI Totally Television)
A young woman of mixed ancestry struggles with an equal opportunity form that requires her to respond to the dilemma: Ethnicity – Choose One.
Vistas: Raise a Red Flag | 2009, 4 mins
Adam Garnet Jones (NSI Storytellers, NSI Diverse TV Director)
A young girl discovers the meaning of community and cultural pride after her mother insists she wave a red flag on her way to school.
Ikwe | 1986, 57 mins
Norma Bailey (NSI Totally Television)
Part of the Daughters of the Country series, this dramatic film features a young Ojibwa girl from 1770 who marries a Scottish fur trader and leaves home for the shores of Georgian Bay. Although the union is beneficial for her tribe, it results in hardship and isolation for Ikwe. Values and customs clash until, finally, the events of a dream Ikwe once had unfold with tragic clarity.
Let the Daylight into the Swamp | 2012, 36 mins
Jeffrey St. Jules (NSI Features First)
Jeffrey St. Jules reconstructs the story of his grandparents and their rugged frontier existence in the logging towns of northern Ontario. A blend of fiction and documentary, the film stitches together a fractured family history that is filled with both the joie de vivre and hardships reflective of Franco-Ontarian life.
Alumni: if you have other films at nfb.ca that are free to watch, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below.