NFB/ONF celebrates 75 Years

National Film Board of Canada/Office National du film du Canada is the oldest national film institution in the world, as far as I know. It started in 1939, and is being celebrated in and outside its own country because of its 75 years. For someone like me who worked for 20 years in the sister organisation National Film Board of Denmark (Statens Filmcentral) (that also started in 1939 with its activities now integrated in the Danish Film Institute) the NFB was a magnet of interest with its integration of production, promotion and distribution. The catalogue we built up included dozens of films from the NFB, many of them being animation films. Yes, this is where the genius Norman McLaren (PHOTO) made his films.

In world documentary history there are strong names placed from Canada, let me just mention Pierre Perrault, Colin Low, Roman Kroitor, Wolf Koenig and Peter Wintonick, who with NFB made “Cinéma Vérité: Defining the Moment” (1999), for me definitely the introduction to that lovely documentary sub-genre.

From the press release from NFB, sent out some days ago: Starting May 2, the NFB’s online Screening Room,, will feature a web page dedicated

to the NFB’s 75th anniversary, featuring new content each week. On May 19, the NFB will launch its new 75th-anniversary website, Making Movie History: A Portrait in 61 Parts, offering an anecdotal portrait of the NFB’s place in Canadian cinema, told through the stories of some of its artists, rebels and dreamers.

And later on a brief history is outlined:

•    The NFB is founded in 1939 by documentary pioneer John Grierson in accordance with the recommendations of the National Film Act, laying the foundation for a homegrown film industry.

•    In 1941, Norman McLaren joins the NFB to open its animation studio and pioneer breakthroughs across a range of animation techniques.

•    The first Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject goes to the NFB, for Churchill’s Island, beginning a string of successes that would see the NFB win 12 Oscars―and garner 72 nominations, more than any film organization in the world outside Hollywood.

•    In 1964, the NFB establishes its French production branch, reinforcing the NFB’s leadership role in francophone filmmaking and helping to build a distinct national cinema in Quebec.

•    The NFB’s immersive multiscreen experience In the Labyrinth creates a sensation at Expo 67 in Montreal, leading to the invention of the giant-screen IMAX format.

•    In the 1980s, Winnipeg takes the global stage as a centre of animation excellence, with such classics as Richard Condie’s The Big Snit and Cordell Barker’s The Cat Came Back.

•    In 1993, Alanis Obomsawin’s documentary film Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance is named Best Canadian Feature at the Toronto International Film Festival.

•    In 2009, the NFB launches its online Screening Room and establishes digital production studios in Vancouver and Montreal that have produced such acclaimed works as Welcome to Pine Point, Bear 71 and the interactive animation BLA BLA.

•    In 2012, Sarah Polley completes Stories We Tell, one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful Canadian documentaries of all time.

•    As the NFB marks its 75th anniversary, and partner platforms have surpassed 50 million viewings, with NFB interactive productions and digital platforms winning over 100 awards, including 7 Webbys.

Go to the websites of NFB, surf around, many films are available for free, or for cheap streaming or buying.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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