Sunday, July 06, 2008

The National Film Board of Canada Expands Its Audience

As a Canadian cinephile, I'm often frustrated that more people outside of the country don't realize what a rich cinematic history we have.

A lot of that history is bound up in the National Film Board of Canada (the NFB, for short) which has spent the last 69 years pushing at the frontiers of, among other things, animation and documentary filmmaking.

A pal who works at the NFB recently tipped me off to their latest online initiative. Over on beta.NFB.ca they've created a free, public online repository of NFB shorts and features, starting with over 300 films from their archives. The films can be shared and embedded YouTube-style, as well.

This isn't the first time the NFB has dipped into their vaults for their online audience. Two years ago, to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the creation of the animation department, the NFB put 70 of their animation shorts on their Focus on Animation site. However, that played as something of a "greatest hits" collection; not that that's bad thing, but it didn't have the scope of beta.NFB.ca, which even in this preliminary stage offers a more textured view of the history of Canada, Canadians, and cinema as a whole.

As its name implies, beta.NFB.ca is still a work in progress, with a few rough edges to be found in search, among other things. Also, the emphasis so far is on older films, which doesn't quite give the sense of the NFB's gradual evolution as it started to include more works from Canadian filmmakers looking at the world outside its borders. But hey, there's plenty to keep us occupied until they get truly settled in. Here are three tidbits.

What do nuclear annihilation and Scrabble have in common? The Big Snit:


The 1964 experimental film 21-87 was enough of an inspiration to George Lucas that he snuck a reference to it into Star Wars. It's quite a leap from one to the other, isn't it?


Give an emerging filmmaker (and creative taxidermist) a Nikon digital SLR, and you get Carla Coma's stop-motion oddity The Squirrel Next Door:


[Cross-posted from Today @ PC World.]

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