Curator pick: National Film Board of Canada

David Filipi, Director, Film/Video

Mar 31, 2020

A yellow cat claws the last shred of upholstery on a couch in a scene from Cordell Baker's 1988 animated short The Cat Came Back

Submitted for sharing by Wexner Center programmers.

A great source of free films on the internet is the website of the storied National Film Board of Canada. Founded in 1939 by the influential British documentary producer John Grierson, the government-funded organization has supported the production of thousands of films across disciplines and genres over the past 80 years. The animation unit (founded by the great Norman McLaren in 1941) and the documentary unit have especially rich histories. All one needs to do is to register at the website (it’s easy and FREE) to have access to a treasure trove of films across generations. 

Sarah Polley points sits at a kitchen table and points a camera at the viewer in a scene from her documentary Stories We Tell

From Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell, courtesy of National Film Board of Canada

I rely on the site often when teaching my History of Animation course, and, for starters, I recommend such classics as The Street (Caroline Leaf, 1976), Begone Dull Care (Norman McLaren & Evelyn Lambart, 1949), and Ryan (Chris Landreth, 2004). Documentaries including Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell (2012)—a good one for fans of Netflix documentary series—and Ladies and Gentlemen…Mr. Leonard Cohen (Donald Brittain & Don Owen, 1965) are popular films on the site. There's a rich section of Indigenous-made films as well, and plenty of options for younger viewers, like The Cat Came Back, an Oscar-nominated short from 1988 by Cordell Baker (pictured at top). One can easily get lost in all of the selections.

You can register and begin viewing here!