November 1, 1996

1996 IDA Preservation and Scholarship Award: National Film Board of Canada

The National Film Board of Canada, a unique cultural organization, was established by an Act of the Canadian Parliament on May 2, 1939. John Grierson, the pioneer documentary filmmaker and visionary, founded the Film Board and was the first Government Film Commissioner. His dream was to make the NF BC "the eyes of Canada'' and to ensure that it would, "through a national use of cinema, see Canada and see it whole: it's people and its purpose."

Now almost sixty years later, and with 9,000 film s to its credit, the National Film Board of Canada is internationally recognized for the quality of its productions, and its preservation work and archival holdings. It has received thousands of awards, including sixty nominations for the Academy Award® resulting in ten Oscars®, including an honorary statuette in 1989 "in recognition of its fiftieth anniversary and its dedicated commitment to originate artistic, creative and technological activity and excellence in every area of fillmmaking."

The initial purpose of the Film Board was to produce films for World War II, realized in its two landmark series, Canada Carries On and World in Action. These were  instruments of information and popular education inspired by the philosophy of Grierson, who said at the time, "War film, yes, but more films too, about the everyday things of life, the values, the ideals which make life worth living.... In that way, we may rescue, from these barren days of trouble, something we can hand on for the future." And, for the next half century, this is just what the Film Board has done, from the Oscar®­ winning Churchill's Island (1941) by Stuart Legg, to the remarkable de animation of Norman McLaren (1941-85), the memorial series (Eye Witness; Coup d'œil; On the Spot; Sur Le vif, Window on Canada; Candid Eye; Challenge for Change/Societe nouvelle), the extraordinary masterpieces of Studio B (Corral, Paul Tomkowicz, City of Gold, Universe, Lonely Boy, to cite just a few of the works by Tom Daly, Wally Gentleman, Wolf Koenig, Roman Kroitor, Stanley Jackson, Colin Low), the first films on women and their roles in war—and post-war society, and the brilliance of the work by Studio D, the Film Board's women's production unit.

Its legacy firmly established, the Film Board has not neglected preserving this rich treasure and making it available to scholars, filmmakers and the public, though its Audiovisual Collections Unit; its on-line and Internet database (FOR­MAT); its Stock Shot Library; and through its unique Cinerobotheque, which permits access-on -demand to the NFB collection in Montreal and at a distance. Through these efforts, the rich treasures of the Film Board's accomplishments stand as a tribute to the documentary spirit, accessible and inspirational to the filmmakers of tomorrow.

 

PAST AWARD WINNERS

1995 Roger Mayer
1994 John E. Allen
1993 Vanderbilt University Television News Archive
1992 Robert Rosen, UCLA Film and Television Archive
1991 William T. Murphy, The National Archive
1990 Alan Rosenthal
1989 David Shepard
1988 Jack Coogan
1987 Kemp Niver
1986 Film Department of the Museum of Modern Art
1985 Erik Barnouw

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