Introduction: Shameless Propaganda (02:48)
England braced for Nazi invasion in the spring of 1941. “Churchill’s Island” captured the moment and brought the National Film Board of Canada to the attention of the world.
Canadian Image (02:06)
The National Film Board produced more than 500 films during the war. Filmmaker Robert Lower wanted to examine how Canadians saw themselves and the image they presented to the world.
John Grierson (02:48)
NFB’s first director coined the term documentary in 1926 and went on to define the genre. He arrived in Canada 12 years later, after Prime Minister Mackenzie King asked for advice on Canada’s film policy.
Meaning of Canadian (02:39)
Citizens were fragmented in their beliefs regarding what it meant to be Canadian and Grierson was determined to find what linked the entire country. He established his headquarters in an old lumber mill in Ottawa.
"Hot Ice" (02:33)
In 1940, Grierson delivered an ode to hockey that was narrated by Morley Callaghan. It illustrated Grierson’s notion of democratic propaganda as it celebrated the common man and stressed a pastime that united the country. Hockey became a metaphor for Canadian values.
Blue Collar Workers (09:26)
“Bluenose Schooner," “Coal Face Canada,” and other NFB films depicted grueling jobs that average Canadians relied on to make a living. Many documentaries introduced Canadians to distant neighbors. The films often presented an overtly populist message.
National Virtues (06:07)
Early NFB films depicted Canadians as sharing three basic values: a deep belief in democratic freedoms, fearlessness in the face of hard work, and a healthy combination of self-reliance and mutual support. Jane Marsh’s “Alex Tremblay, Habitant” is an example.
“The World in Action” (06:43)
Moviegoers flocked to screenings during the 1940s. At its most popular, the series had 40 million viewers per episode. The NFB also grew its audience with a nationwide network of monthly circuits.
NFB Expansion and Prejudice (08:27)
The NFB added industrial circuits, and Grierson became general manager of the Wartime Information Board. Officially, the NFB embraced multiculturalism, but even well-intentioned films reinforced stereotypes. Racism, antisemitism, and xenophobia continued unabated behind the scenes.
Depictions of Indigenous People (06:18)
Aboriginal Canadians were the "ultimate outsiders." The NFB often depicted them as primitive oddities. Unlike films on other issues, these motion pictures were never intended to be seen by their subjects.
Jane Marsh (04:10)
World War II brought more women into the workplace, leading to social change. Marsh’s disdain for traditional gender roles was evident in her films about women in the armed services. She resigned following a disagreement with Grierson in 1944.
Postwar Optimism (08:03)
Industrial and social advances raised hopes for the future as the end of WWII neared. “Flight 6” promoted the new transatlantic airmail service in 1944. “Before They Are Six” reflected efforts to establish a national daycare system.
Film Legacy (07:55)
Grierson and filmmaker Stuart Legg advocated for their vision of foreign policy toward the end of WWII. Legg's “Our Northern Neighbour” and a film on Greece, angered Prime Minister King. Grierson resigned on Aug. 10, 1945.
Credits: Shameless Propaganda (01:52)
Credits: Shameless Propaganda
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