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THE PROJECTION OF CANADA DoNALD W. BucHANAN THE making of motio~ pictures is a mixture of_ mechanism and art, and the mechamsm looms -large. There IS also the question of money. Who pays the bill? Romantic and fictional films can net box-office profits equally well from audiences in Lucknow, Ontario, or Lucknow, India, but it takes millions of dollars to promote them. On the other hand, with more moderate funds, government departments may aim to do a job of citizenship through visual education, or manufacturing firms may seek to gain prestige by distributing informational movies. In Canada, only the last two types of sponsor appear. We have here no Hollywood of the north, no great studio lots and highly paid stars, no cigar-smoking magnates, but we have flourishing documentary and factual film units, which aim to put the workaday face of Canada on the screen. The largest of these is the National Film Board of Canada, promoted by John Grierson, who was formerly head of the General Post Office Film unit in Great Britain. As for Grierson, his particular job has been to encourage films that will relate our familiar scenes to wider concepts of citizenship and statehood. So much f,or the goal, but how then do these movies reach the public? Although the series, ."World in Action" and "Canada Carries On," and newsreel items and such like go into the majority of our movie houses, where they are seen by millions, the bulk of the Canadian product is not made for the trade circuits at all. These films are turned out rather for 16 mm. showings in factories and schools, for screenings by churches and service clubs, trade unions and chambers of commerce, or for use by travelling projectionists in rural and industrial areas. The subjects, well, they may be anything. Anything, one might say, from handicrafts in Quebec to the building of the Alaska Highway. There have even been excursions into social science. For example, films on credit unions and unemployment insurance have lately been made by the government studios. Culture, of course, with a capital letter, also creeps in occasionally, as in "The Flight of the Dragon" about the collection of Chinese art in the Royal Ontario Museum, or in "Chansons Populaires," cartoon films to the music and words of French-Cat;adian folk-songs. The 298 THE PROJECTION OF CANADA 299 prime emphasis, however, is on national unity, on letting each Canadian know the face of his fellows. This new pace in movie-making has been largely set by the National Film Board, which by act of parliament in 1939 was given responsibility for all productions by Dominion government agencies. But even before 1939, there existed a strong nucleus of enthusiasm for cultural and educational films in Canada. This enthusiasm had been nurtured by the National Film Society of Canada, a co-operative organization of educationists and laymen interested in the art of the cinema. Founded by the author in 1935 as a national association, it immediately started to present the classics of the screen to large audiences composed of members who paid annual subscriptions. Groups in Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Regina, Edmonton, Vancouver, Hamilton and Kingston were soon seeing the best of international production. Special study projects in visual education for teachers were also started. Finally, both the Imperial Trust (Great Britain) and the Rockefeller Foundation of New York recognized the Society by giving it grants-in-aid. With these funds it was possible for its central office to assemble and to circulate throughout Canada a large travelling library of 16 rnm. movies, which was designed to act as a spur towards the formation of new regional libraries by the provmces. Canadian production of quality was, nevertheless, until 1939 pretty fragmentary. True, in the early thirties we could already boast of the "Grey Owl and the Beaver" series of outdoor movies done by Bill Oliver of Calgary for the National Parks Branch, Ottawa. These stories of a tame beaver have always been favourites with teachers and children. Amateur movie-makers were also using their 16 mm. cameras to advantage. Leslie Thatcher of Toronto pieced out with slow deliberation a sequence of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 298-305
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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