Thanks to the influence of Scot John Grierson at the National Film Board, Canada has a rich documentary tradition. In this season we showcase six of the best recent examples of the genre, showcasing a range of approaches and topics.
Is the Crown at War With Us?
Alanis Obomsawin | Canada | 2002 | 96 minutes
A feature documentary offering a gripping portrait of the Esgenoopetitj Mi’gmaq First Nation during the summer of 2000 as the Canadian government appears to wage war on the community for exercising their inherent and court-affirmed fishing rights.
John Walker | Canada | 2008 | 90 minutes
‘Passage’ achieves something truly special in telling the story of John Rae and his remarkable journeys. In recognising that there’s more to a story than the story itself, John Walker blends established techniques to create a wonderful, rich hybrid documentary that paints a full picture of a man and his times, the lands he travelled through, the people he met and the struggles he endured. Walker’s choices in switching narrative viewpoints, in sparing use of dramatic re-creation and in bringing the modern world face-to-face with the Victorian are the sign of a fine director at ease with his craft and one who credits his audience with the intelligence to follow his line.
Black Wave: The Legacy of the Exxon Valdez
Robert Cornellier | Canada | 2008 | 99 minutes
In the early hours of March 24th 1989 the Exxon Valdez oil supertanker runs aground in Alaska. It discharges millions of gallons of crude oil. The incident becomes the biggest environmental catastrophe in North American history. In a flash, dramatic images shoot across the planet. They show thousands of carcasses of dead seabirds and sea otters covered in oil. A thick black tide rises and covers the beaches of once-pristine Prince William Sound. For twenty years, Riki Ott and the fishermen of the little town of Cordova, Alaska have waged the longest legal battle in U.S. history against the world’s most powerful oil company – ExxonMobil. They tell us all about the environmental, social and economic consequences of the black wave that changed their lives forever.
Kevin McMahon | Canada | 2009 | 109 minutes
Water’s journey from streams entering Lake Superior to the mouth of the Saint Lawrence Seaway takes 350 years. The narration establishes the importance of the Great Lakes for the U.S. and Canada’s fresh water. Then, for each of the Great Lakes, plus Lake St. Clair, the film focuses on specific environmental problems: lamprey eels in Lake Superior, heavy metals in Lake Michigan, zebra mussels in Lake Huron, petrochemical waste in Lake Erie, and toxic waste dumps near Lake Ontario all degrade human and animal health. The film argues that governments and industry turn a blind eye to needed clean up and regulation, putting plants, fish, birds, and humans at risk
Act of God
Jennifer Baichwal | Canada | 2009 | 75 minutes
A look at the metaphysical effects of being struck by lightning.
Inside Hana’s Suitcase
Larry Weinstein | Canada / Czech Republic | 2009 | 88 minutes
Inside Hana’s Suitcase, is the poignant story of two young children who grew up in pre-WWII Czechoslovakia and the terrible events that they endured just because they happened to be born Jewish. Based on the internationally acclaimed book “Hana’s Suitcase” which has been translated into 40 languages, the film is an effective blend of documentary and dramatic techniques. In addition to tracing the lives of George and Hana Brady in the 1930’s and 40’s, Inside Hana’s Suitcase tells the present-day story of “The Small Wings”, a group of Japanese children, and how their passionate and tenacious teacher, Fumiko Ishioka, helped them solve the mystery of Hana Brady, whose name was painted on an old battered suitcase that they received from Auschwitz