National Film Board of Canada
Office national du film du Canada
National Film Board of Canada logo
|Purpose||Film and interactive media producer and distributor|
|Headquarters||Montreal, Quebec, Canada|
Government Film Commissioner and NFB Chairperson
The National Film Board of Canada (NFB; French: Office national du film du Canada (ONF)) is Canada's public film and digital media producer and distributor. An agency of the Government of Canada, the NFB produces and distributes documentary films, animation, web documentaries, and alternative dramas. In total, the NFB has produced over 13,000 productions since its inception, which have won over 5,000 awards. The NFB reports to the Parliament of Canada through the Minister of Canadian Heritage. It has English-language and French-language production branches.
- 1939: The government of Canada proposes the creation of a National Film Commission to complement the activities of the Canadian Government Motion Picture Bureau. The legislation stipulates that the NFB was to “make and distribute films designed to help Canadians in all parts of Canada to understand the ways of living and the problems of Canadians in other parts.” Legislation also stated that the NFB would co-ordinate the film activities of federal departments.
- 1950: Canada's Parliament passes the National Film Act, which states that NFB's mandate is "to produce and distribute and to promote the production and distribution of films designed to interpret Canada to Canadians and to other nations." This act also stipulates that the NFB is to engage in film research.
- 1965: As a result of a report written by producer Gordon Sheppard on Canadian cultural policies and activities, the NFB began regionalizing its English production activities, with producers appointed in major cities across Canada.
- 1984: Minister of Communications Francis Fox released a National Film and Video Policy, which added two new elements to the mandate, with the NFB also tasked with being "a world centre of excellence in production of films and videos" and "a national training and research centre in the art and technique of film and video."
- 2008: The NFB announces a Strategic Plan that includes its first digital strategy.
The National Film Board currently maintains its head office in Saint-Laurent, a borough of Montreal, in the Norman McLaren electoral district, named in honour of the NFB animation pioneer. The NFB HQ building is also named for McLaren, and is home to much of its production activity.
In spring 2019, the NFB moved its headquarters from the Norman McLaren Building in the Montreal borough of Saint-Laurent to the new Îlot Balmoral building located at Montreal's Quartier des spectacles, adjacent to the Place des Festivals square. The NFB will occupy the first six floors of the building, which will allow it to have closer contact with the public, and will also feature expanded digital media research and production facilities.
The NFB's offices in Toronto. The ground-floor Mediatheque was closed in April 2012.
In addition to the English and French-language studios in its Montreal HQ, there are centres throughout Canada. English-language production occurs at centres in Toronto (Ontario Centre), Vancouver (Pacific & Yukon Centre, located in the Woodward's Building), Edmonton (North West Centre), Winnipeg (Prairie Centre), and Halifax (Atlantic Centre). As of October 2009, the Atlantic Centre also operates an office in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. In June 2011, the NFB appointed a producer to work with film and digital media makers across Saskatchewan, to be based in Regina.
Outside Quebec, French language productions are also made in Moncton (Studio Acadie) and Toronto (Canadian Francophone Studio). The NFB also offers support programs for independent filmmakers: in English, via the Filmmaker Assistance Program (FAP) and in French through its Aide du cinéma indépendant – Canada (ACIC) program.
The organization has a hierarchical structure headed by a Board of Trustees, which is chaired by the Government Film Commissioner and NFB Chairperson. It is overseen by the Board of Trustees Secretariat and Legal Affairs.
Funding is derived primarily from government of Canada transfer payments, and also from its own revenue streams. These revenues are from print sales, film production services, rentals, and royalties, and total up to $10 million yearly; the NFB lists this as Respendable Revenues in its financial statements. As a result of cuts imposed by 2012 Canadian federal budget, by 2015 the NFB's public funding will be reduced by $6.7 million, to $60.3 million.
As part of the 2016 Canadian federal budget, the NFB will receive an additional $13.5 million in funding, spread out over a five-year period.
Albert William Trueman was NFB commissioner from 1953–1957
In 1938, the Government of Canada invited John Grierson, a British documentary film producer who introduced the term "documentary" to English-speaking film criticism, to study the state of the government's film production. Up to that date, the Government Motion Picture Bureau, established in 1918, had been the major Canadian film producer. The results of Grierson's report were included in the National Film Act of 1939.
, the Act led to the establishment of the National Film Commission, which was subsequently renamed the National Film Board (NFB). The NFB was founded in part to create propaganda in support of the Second World War.
In 1940, with Canada at war, the NFB launched its Canada Carries On series of morale boosting theatrical shorts. The success of Canada Carries On led to the creation of The World in Action, which was more geared to international audiences.
In this period, other NFB films were issued as newsreels, such as The War Is Over (1945), intended for theatrical showings. These films were based on current news and often tackled wartime events as well as contemporary issues in Canadian culture.
Early in its history, the NFB was a primarily English-speaking institution. Based in Ottawa, 90% of its staff were English and the few French Canadians in production worked with English crews. There was a French Unit that was responsible for versioning films into French but it was headed by an Anglophone. And in NFB annual reports of the time, French films were listed under "foreign languages". Screenwriter Jacques Bobet, hired in 1947, worked to strengthen the French Unit and retain French talent and was appointed producer of French versions in 1951. During that period, commissioner Albert Trueman, sensitive to how the Quiet Revolution was beginning to transform Quebec society, brought in Pierre Juneau as the NFB's "French Advisor". Juneau recommended the creation of a French production branch to enable francophone filmmakers to work and create in their own language.
During the 1940s and early 1950s, the NFB employed 'travelling projectionists' who toured the country, bringing films and public discussions to rural communities.
In 1950, a revision of the National Film Act removed any direct government intervention into the operation and administration of the NFB.
In 1956, the NFB's headquarters was relocated from Ottawa to Montreal, improving the NFB's reputation in French Canada and making the NFB more attractive to French-speaking filmmakers.
In 1964, a separate French production branch was finally established, with Bobet as one of its four initial executive producers.
In 1967, the creation of the Canadian Film Development Corporation (now known as Telefilm Canada) refined the mandate for the National Film Board. The Canadian Film Development Corporation would become responsible for promoting the development of the film industry. The Challenge for Change was also created the same year as a community media project which would develop the use of film and video as a tool for initiating social change.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the National Film Board produced several educational films in partnership with Parks Canada, including Bill Schmalz's Bears and Man.
In the early 1970s, the NFB began a process of decentralization, opening film production centres in cities across Canada. The move had been championed by NFB producers such as Rex Tasker, who became the first executive producer of the NFB's studio in Halifax.
During the 1970s and early 1980s, the National Film Board produced a series of vignettes, some of which aired on CBC and other Canadian broadcasters as interstitial programs. The vignettes became popular because of their cultural depiction of Canada, and because they represented its changing state, such as the vignette Faces which was made to represent the increasing cultural and ethnic diversity of Canada. In 1996, the NFB operating budget was cut by 32%, forcing it to lay off staff and to close its film laboratory, sound stage (now privatized) and other departments.
In 2006, the NFB marked the 65th anniversary of NFB animation with an international retrospective of restored Norman McLaren classics and the launch of the DVD box set, Norman McLaren – The Master's Edition. The NFB budget has since been cut again. The six-storey John Grierson Building at its Montreal headquarters has been unused for several years – with HQ staff now based solely in its adjacent Norman McLaren Building. In October 2009, the NFB released a free app for Apple's iPhone that would allow users to watch thousands of NFB films directly on their cell phones.
In 2010, the NFB released an iPad version of their app that streams NFB films, many in high definition.
In March 2012, the NFB's funding was cut 10%, to be phased in over a three-year period, as part of the 2012 Canadian federal budget. The NFB eliminated 73 full and part-time positions.
Beginning on 2 May 2014, the NFB's 75th anniversary was marked by such events as the release of a series of commemorative stamps by Canada Post, and an NFB documentary about the film board's early years, entitled Shameless Propaganda.
Cinéma vérité and Direct Cinema
In the post-war era the NFB became a pioneer in new developments in documentary film. The NFB played a key role in both the Cinéma vérité and Direct Cinema movements, working on technical innovations to make its 16 mm synchronized sound equipment more light-weight and portable—most notably the "Sprocketape" portable sound recorder invented for the film board by Ches Beachell in 1955. Influenced by the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, the NFB's Studio B production unit experimented with cinema verite in its 1958 Candid Eye series. Candid Eye along with such NFB French-language films as Les Raquetteurs (1958) have been credited as helping to inspire the cinéma vérité documentary movement. Other key cinéma vérité films during this period included Lonely Boy (1961) and Ladies and Gentlemen... Mr. Leonard Cohen (1965).
Challenge for Change/Societé Nouvelle
Running from 1967 to 1980, Challenge for Change and its French-language equivalent Societé Nouvelle became a global model for the use of film and portable video technology to create community-based participatory documentary films to promote dialogue on local issues and promote social change. Over two hundred such films were produced, including 27 films about Fogo Island, Newfoundland, directed by Colin Low and early NFB efforts in Indigenous filmmaking, such as Willie Dunn's The Battle of Crowfoot (1968).
NFB documentarians played a key role in the development of the IMAX film format, following the NFB multi-screen experience In the Labyrinth, created for Expo 67 in Montreal. The film was the centrepiece of a $4.5 million pavilion, which attracted over 1.3 million visitors in 1967, and was co-directed by Roman Kroitor, Colin Low and Hugh O'Connor, and produced by Tom Daly and Kroitor. After Expo, Kroitor left the NFB to co-found what would become known as IMAX Corporation, with Graeme Ferguson and Robert Kerr. The NFB continued to be involved with IMAX breakthroughs at subsequent world's fairs, with NFB director Donald Brittain directing the first-ever IMAX film Tiger Child for Expo 70 in Osaka, and with the NFB producing the first full-colour IMAX-3D film Transitions for Expo 86 in Vancouver and the first 48 fps IMAX HD film Momentum for Seville Expo '92.
In the 1980s, the National Film Board also produced a number of "alternative drama" films, which combined documentary and narrative fiction filmmaking techniques. Generally starring non-professional actors, these films used a documentary format to present a fictionalized story and were generally scripted by the filmmakers and the cast through a process of improvisation, and are thus classified as docufiction.
The alternative drama films were The Masculine Mystique (1984), 90 Days (1985), Sitting in Limbo (1986), The Last Straw (1987), Train of Dreams (1987), Welcome to Canada (1989) and The Company of Strangers (1990).
McLaren drawing on film, 1944
When Norman McLaren joined the organization in 1941, the NFB began production of animation. The animation department eventually gained distinction, particularly with the pioneering work of McLaren, an internationally recognized experimental filmmaker. The NFB's French-language animation unit was founded in 1966 by René Jodoin.
When McLaren joined the NFB, his first film at the film board was the drawn-on-film short, Mail Early. He would go on to refine his technique make a series of hand-drawn films at the NFB during and after the Second World War, most notably Boogie-Doodle (1940), Hen Hop (1942), Begone Dull Care (1949) and Blinkity Blank (1955).
The NFB was a pioneer in several novel techniques such as pinscreen animation, and as of June 2012, the NFB is reported to have the only working animation pinscreen in the world.
McLaren's Oscar-winning Neighbours popularized the form of character movement referred to as pixilation, a variant of stop motion. The term pixilation itself was created by NFB animator Grant Munro in an experimental film of the same name. In 2015, the NFB's animation studios were credited as helping to lead a revival in stop-motion animation in Canada, building on the tradition of NFB animators such as McLaren and Co Hoedeman.
The NFB was a pioneer in computer animation, releasing one of the first CGI films, the Oscar-nominated Hunger, in 1974, then forming its Centre d'animatique in 1980 to develop new CGI technologies. Staff at the Centre d'animatique included Daniel Langlois, who left in 1986 to form Softimage.
The NFB was licensed by IMAX Corporation to develop new artistic applications using its SANDDE system for hand-drawn stereoscopic computer animation, with the NFB producing a number of films including Falling in Love Again (2003) and Subconscious Password (2013).
Traditional animators included Richard Condie, John Weldon, Alison Snowden, Janet Perlman, Cordell Barker, Brad Caslor, Michael Mills, Paul Driessen among others (some draw on paper rather than cels).
Caroline Leaf used this technique on films such as The Metamorphosis Of Mr. Samsa and The Owl Who Married A Goose. The Sand Castle was the first (and so far only) sand animation to win an Oscar.
Paint on glass animation
Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbes perfected the paint on glass technique (mixing oil paint with glycerine) on films such as Strings and Wild Life. This technique was also used on Caroline Leaf's film The Street.
As of March 2013, the NFB devotes one quarter of its production budget to interactive media, including web documentaries. The NFB is a pioneer in interactive web documentaries, helping to position Canada as a major player in digital storytelling, according to transmedia creator Anita Ondine Smith, as well as Shari Frilot, programmer for Sundance Film Festival's New Frontier program for digital media.
Welcome to Pine Point received two Webby Awards while Out My Window, an interactive project from the NFB's Highrise project, won the IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling and an International Digital Emmy Award.
Loc Dao is the executive producer and "creative technologist" responsible for NFB English-language digital content and strategy, based in the Woodward's Building in Vancouver. Jeremy Mendes is an interactive artist producing English-language interactive works for the NFB, whose projects include a collaboration with Leanne Allison (Being Caribou, Finding Farley) on the webdoc Bear 71.
Dao's counterpart for French-language interactive media production at the NFB is Hugues Sweeney, based in Montreal. Sweeney's recent credits include the online interactive animation work, Bla Bla.
The NFB is also recognized as a leader in virtual reality, with works such as the Webby Award-winning The Unknown Photographer, Way to Go and Cardboard Crash.
In January 2009, the NFB launched its online Screening Room, NFB.ca, offering Canadian and international web users the ability to stream hundreds of NFB films for free as well as embed links in blogs and social sites. By mid-2013, the NFB's digital platforms had received approximately 41 million views.
In October 2009, the NFB launched an iPhone application that was downloaded more than 170,000 times and led to more than 500,000 film views in the first four months. In January 2010, the NFB added high-definition and 3D films to the over 1400 productions available for viewing online. The NFB introduced a free iPad application in July 2010, followed by its first app for the Android platform in March 2011. When the BlackBerry PlayBook launched on April 19, 2011, it included a pre-loaded app offering access to 1,500 NFB titles. In January 2013, it was announced that the NFB film app would be available for the BlackBerry 10, via the BlackBerry World app store.
In September 2011, the NFB and the Montreal French-language daily Le Devoir announced that they would jointly host three interactive essays on their websites, ONF.ca and ledevoir.com. The NFB is a partner with China's ifeng.com on NFB Zone, the first Canadian-branded web channel in China, with 130 NFB animated shorts and documentary films available on the company's digital platforms. NFB documentaries are also available on Netflix Canada.
In April 2013, the NFB announced that it was "seeking commercial partners to establish a subscription service for Internet television and mobile platforms next year. The service would be available internationally and would feature documentaries from around the world as well as the NFB’s own catalogue." As of April 2015, NFB.ca offered VOD films from partners Excentris and First Weekend Club along with NFB productions, with over 450 English and French VOD titles scheduled to be added in 2015.
On June 20, 2017, the NFB announced a three-year plan entitled "Redefining the NFB's Relationship with Indigenous Peoples" that commits the organization to hiring more Indigenous staff, designating 15% of its production spending for Indigenous works and offering cross-cultural training to all employees. The plan also sees the NFB building on its relationships with Canadian schools and organizations to create more educational materials about Indigenous peoples in Canada.
One of the most notable filmmakers in the history of the NFB is Alanis Obomsawin, an Abenaki director who will be completing her 50th film with the NFB in 2017.
Inuit film and animation
In November 2011, the NFB and partners including the Inuit Relations Secretariat and the Government of Nunavut introduced a DVD and online collection entitled Unikkausivut: Sharing Our Stories, makes over 100 NFB films by and about Inuit available in Inuktitut and other Inuit languages, as well as English and French.
In November 2006, the National Film Board of Canada and the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation announced the start of the Nunavut Animation Lab, offering animation training to Nunavut artists. Films from the Nunavut Animation Lab include Alethea Arnaquq-Baril's 2010 digital animation short Lumaajuuq, winner of the Best Aboriginal Award at the Golden Sheaf Awards and named Best Canadian Short Drama at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival.
First Stories and Second Stories
In 2005, the NFB introduced its "First Stories" program for emerging Indigenous directors from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Twelve five-minute films were produced through the program, with four from each province. First Stories was followed by "Second Stories," in which three filmmakers from the previous program—Gerald Auger, Tessa Desnomie and Lorne Olson—were invited back to create 20 minute films.
The NFB was a founding partner in Wapikoni Mobile, a mobile film and media production unit for emerging First Nations filmmakers in Quebec.
The Indian Film Crew was an early effort in First Nations filmmaking at the NFB, through its Challenge for Change program (established in 1964 on the initiative of George Stoney, the executive producer of Challenge for Change), and was jointly sponsored by the Company of Young Canadians and the Department of Indian Affairs. Barbara Wilson, Tom O’Connor, Noel Starblanket, Roy Daniels, Morris Isaac, Willie Dunn, and Mike Kanentakeron Mitchell were on Canada’s first all-Indigenous production unit, making groundbreaking work that helped galvanize Indigenous movements across the continent. After only five months' training about various aspects of filmmaking, participants worked on community development projects and research for future films. The unit's first release was The Ballad of Crowfoot (1968), described as "the first NFB film to present First Nations experience from an Indigenous point of view." Subsequent films included the 1969 documentaries These Are My People and You Are on Indian Land. A documentary was also made about the effort to increase aboriginal representation in filmmaking.
The NFB has been a leader in films by women, with the world's first publicly funded women's film's studio, Studio D, followed subsequently by its French-language equivalent, Studio des femmes. Beginning on March 8, 2016, International Women's Day, the NFB began introducing a series of gender parity initiatives.
In 1974, in conjunction with International Women's Year, the NFB created Studio D on the recommendation of long-time employee Kathleen Shannon. Shannon was designated as Executive Director of the new studio—the first government-funded film studio dedicated to women filmmakers in the world— which became one of the NFB's most celebrated filmmaking units, winning awards and breaking distribution records.
Notable films produced by the studio include three Academy Award-winning documentaries I'll Find a Way (1977), If You Love This Planet (1982) and Flamenco at 5:15 (1983), as well as Not a Love Story (1982) and Forbidden Love: The Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives (1992). Studio D was shut down in 1996, amidst a sweeping set of federal government budget cuts, which impacted the NFB as a whole.
As of March 8, 2016, researchers and librarians at the University of Calgary announced an archival project to preserve records of Studio D.
Gender parity initiatives
On March 8, 2016, NFB head Claude Joli-Coeur announced a new gender-parity initiative, with the NFB committing that half of all its production spending will be earmarked for films directed by women. The following year, the NFB announced that it also plans to achieve gender balance by 2020 in such creative positions as editing, scriptwriting, musical composition, cinematography and artistic direction. As of 2017, 53% of its producers and executive producers are women, as well as half of its administrative council.
While it is claiming success, directing credits and budget shares have barely changed. In 2016-2017, 44 per cent of NFB productions were directed by women (compared to 51 per cent directed by men and five per cent by mixed teams). Budget-wise, 43 per cent of production funds were given to projects led by women (vs. 40 per cent to projects directed by men and 15 per cent to ones overseen by mixed teams). In 2018-19, 48% of NFB works were directed by women (38% by men and 14% by mixed teams), and 44% of the NFB production budget was allocated to works created by women (41% for works by men and 15% for works by mixed teams). Production personnel are between 10-25%.
NFB training programs include:
Hothouse, a program for emerging animators that marked its tenth anniversary in 2015. Notable Hothouse alumni include Academy Award nominee Patrick Doyon, part of its 2006 edition. Cinéaste recherché(e) is a similar program for French-language emerging animators. Past graduates include Michèle Cournoyer, who took part in the program's 9th edition in 1989.
A collaboration with the Canadian Film Centre on a theatrical documentary development program. First launched in January 2009, the program has led to the production of Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell, Yung Chang‘s The Fruit Hunters and Su Rynard’s The Messenger. In May 2015, the CFC and NFB announced a new version of the program entitled the NFB/CFC Creative Doc Lab.
Branches and studios
As of 2015, the NFB is organized along the following branches:
- Director General, Creation and Innovation: René Bourdages. The heads of the NFB's English and French production branches are Michelle van Beusekom and Michèle Bélanger, respectively.
- Finance, Operations and Technology: Director General: Luisa Frate
- Marketing and Communications: Director General: Jérôme Dufour
- Digital Platforms: Chief Digital Officer: Loc Dao.
- Human Resources: Director General: François Tremblay
With six regional studios in English Program:
- Digital Studio in Vancouver, headed by Executive Producer Rob McLaughlin
- Animation Studio based in Montreal, headed by Executive Producer Michael Fukushima and Producers Maral Mohammadian and Jelena Popović
- Atlantic Centre based in Halifax, headed by Executive Producer Annette Clarke and Producer Paul McNeill
- Quebec Centre based in Montreal, also headed by Executive Producer Annette Clarke
- Ontario Centre based in Toronto, headed by Executive Producer Anita Lee and Producer Lea Marin
- North West Centre based in Edmonton, headed by Executive Producer David Christensen and Producer Bonnie Thompson
- Pacific and Yukon Centre based in Vancouver, headed by Executive Producer Shirley Vercruysse.
- With small satellite offices in Winnipeg and St. John's.
And four regional studios in French Program:
- Interactive Studio in Montreal, headed by Executive Producer Hugues Sweeney
- Ontario and West Studio based in Toronto, headed by Executive Producer: Jacques Turgeon
- Quebec Studio based in Montreal, also headed by Executive Producer: Jacques Turgeon
- French Animation and Youth Studio based in Montreal, headed by Executive Producer: Julie Roy and Producer: Marc Bertrand
- Studio Acadie/Acadia Studio based in Moncton, headed by Executive Producer: Jacques Turgeon and Producer: Maryse Chapdelaine
- René Chénier, formerly head of French Animation, is Executive Producer of Special Projects
Former studios and departments
Still Photography Division
Upon its merger with the Canadian Government Motion Picture Bureau in 1941, the NFB's mandate expanded to include motion as well as still pictures, resulting in the creation of the Still Photography Division of the NFB.
Montreal CineRobotheque, July 2008.
From 1941 to 1984, the Division commissioned freelance photographers to document every aspect of life in Canada. These images were widely distributed through publication in various media.
In 1985, this Division officially became the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography.
The division's work is the subject of a 2013 book by Carleton University art professor Carol Payne entitled The Official Picture: The National Film Board of Canada’s Still Photography Division and the Image of Canada, 1941-1971, published by the McGill-Queen's University Press.
Facilities in Montreal and Toronto
As part of the 2012 budget cuts, the NFB announced that it was forced to close its Toronto Mediatheque and Montreal CineRobotheque public facilities. They ceased to operate as of September 1, 2012. In September 2013, the Université du Québec à Montréal announced that it had acquired the CineRobotheque for its communications faculty.
Government Film Commissioners
As stipulated in the National Film Act of 1950, the person who holds the position of Government Film Commissioner is the head of the NFB. As of December 2014, the 16th commissioner of the NFB is Claude Joli-Coeur, who first joined the NFB in 2003 and had previously served as interim commissioner.
- Past NFB Commissioners
- John Grierson, 1939–1945
- Ross McLean, 1945–1947 (interim), 1947–1950
- W. Arthur Irwin, 1950–1953
- Albert W. Trueman, 1953–1957
- Guy Roberge, 1957–1966
- Grant McLean, 1966–1967 (interim)
- Hugo McPherson, 1967–1970
- Sydney Newman, 1970–1975
- André Lamy, 1975–1979
- James de Beaujeu Domville, 1979–1984
- François N. Macerola, 1984–1988
- Joan Pennefather, 1988–1994
- Sandra M. Macdonald, 1995–2001
- Jacques Bensimon, 2001–2006
- Tom Perlmutter, 2007 to 2013.
- Notable NFB filmmakers, artisans and staff
Film and television awards
Over the years, the NFB has been internationally recognized with more than 5000 film awards. In 2009, Norman McLaren's Neighbours was added to UNESCO's Memory of the World Programme, listing the most significant documentary heritage collections in the world.
Canadian Screen Awards
The NFB has received more than 90 awards from the Canadian Film Awards, the Genie Awards and the Canadian Screen Awards, including a Special Achievement Genie in 1989 for its 50th anniversary. The following is an incomplete list:
The National Film Board of Canada has received 12 Academy Awards to date. It has received 74 Oscar nominations, more than any film organization in the world outside Hollywood. The first-ever Oscar for documentary went to the NFB production, Churchill's Island. In 1989, it received an Honorary Award from the Academy "in recognition of its 50th anniversary and its dedicated commitment to originate artistic, creative and technological activity and excellence in every area of filmmaking." On January 23, 2007, the NFB received its 12th and most recent Academy Award, for the animated short The Danish Poet, directed by Torill Kove and co-produced with MikroFilm AS (Norway). 55 of the NFB's 75 Oscar nominations have been for its short films.
- 1941: Best Documentary Short Subject, Churchill's Island (Stuart Legg)
- 1952: Best Documentary Short Subject, Neighbours (Norman McLaren)
- 1977: Best Animated Short Film, The Sand Castle (Co Hoedeman)
- 1977: Best Live Action Short Film, I'll Find a Way (Beverly Shaffer)
- 1978: Best Animated Short Film, Special Delivery (Eunice Macaulay and John Weldon)
- 1979: Best Animated Short Film, Every Child (Eugene Fedorenko)
- 1982: Best Documentary Short Subject, If You Love This Planet (Terri Nash)
- 1983: Best Documentary Short Subject, Flamenco at 5:15, (Cynthia Scott)
- 1988: Academy Honorary Award – National Film Board
- 1994: Best Animated Short Film, Bob's Birthday, (Alison Snowden and David Fine)
- 2004: Best Animated Short Film, Ryan, (Chris Landreth)
- 2006: Best Animated Short Film, The Danish Poet, (Torill Kove)
Nominated: (incomplete list)
- Dig (Hubley)
- 1941: Best Documentary Short, Warclouds in the Pacific (Stuart Legg)
- 1942: Best Documentary Short, Inside Fighting China (Stuart Legg)
- 1949: Best Documentary Short, The Rising Tide (Jean Palardy)
- 1950: Best Documentary Short, The Fight: Science Against Cancer (Morten Parker)
- 1952: Best Animated Short Film, The Romance of Transportation in Canada, (Colin Low)
- 1952: Best Live Action Short Film, Neighbours (Norman McLaren)
- 1953: Best Live Action Short Film, Herring Hunt (Julian Biggs)
- 1954: Best Documentary Feature, The Stratford Adventure (Morten Parker)
- 1957: Best Live Action Short Film, A Chairy Tale, (Norman McLaren, Claude Jutra)
- 1957: Best Live Action Short Film, City of Gold, (Colin Low, Wolf Koenig)
- 1958: Best Documentary Short, Overture (Gian Luigi Polidoro)
- 1958: Best Documentary Short, The Living Stone (John Feeney)
- 1960: Best Documentary Short, Universe (Colin Low, Roman Kroitor)
- 1961: Best Live Action Short Film, Very Nice, Very Nice, (Arthur Lipsett)
- 1963: Best Animated Short Film, My Financial Career, (Gerald Potterton)
- 1964: Best Animated Short Film, Christmas Cracker, (Norman McLaren, Jeff Hale, Gerald Potterton and Grant Munro)
- 1964: Best Documentary Short, Eskimo Artist: Kenojuak (John Feeney)
- 1966: Best Animated Short Film, The Drag, (Carlos Marchiori; prod. Wolf Koenig and Robert Verrall)
- 1966: Best Documentary Feature, Helicopter Canada (Eugene Boyko)
- 1967: Best Animated Short Film, What on Earth!, (Les Drew and Kaj Pindal)
- 1967: Best Live Action Short Film, Paddle to the Sea, (Bill Mason)
- 1968: Best Animated Short Film, The House That Jack Built, (Ron Tunis)
- 1969: Best Animated Short Film, Walking, (Ryan Larkin)
- 1971: Best Live Action Short Film, Blake, (Bill Mason)
- 1972: Best Animated Short Film, Evolution, (Michael Mills)
- 1974: Best Animated Short Film, Hunger, (Peter Foldes; prod. René Jodoin)
- 1974: Best Animated Short Film, The Family That Dwelt Apart, (Yvon Mallette)
- 1975: Best Animated Short Film, Monsieur Pointu, (Bernard Longpré and André Leduc; prod. René Jodoin)
- 1976: Best Animated Short Film, The Street, (Caroline Leaf and Guy Glover)
- 1976: Best Documentary Feature, Volcano: An Inquiry Into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry (Donald Brittain and John Kramer)
- 1977: Best Animated Short Film, Bead Game, (Ishu Patel)
- 1977: Best Documentary Feature, High Grass Circus (Tony Ianzelo and Torben Schioler)
- 1979: Best Documentary Short, Nails (Phillip Borsos)
- 1979: Best Documentary Feature, Going the Distance (Paul Cowan)
- 1981: Best Animated Short Film, The Tender Tale of Cinderella Penguin, (Janet Perlman)
- 1981: Best Live Action Short Film, First Winter (John N. Smith)
- 1983: Best Documentary Feature, The Profession of Arms (Michael Bryans, Tina Viljoen)
- 1984: Best Animated Short Film, Paradise/Paradis, (Ishu Patel)
- 1985: Best Animated Short Film, The Big Snit, (Richard Condie)
- 1987: Best Animated Short Film, George and Rosemary, (Alison Snowden and David Fine)
- 1988: Best Animated Short Film, The Cat Came Back, (Cordell Barker)
- 1989: Best Foreign Language Film, Jesus of Montreal, (Denys Arcand)
- 1991: Best Animated Short Film, Blackfly, (Christopher Hinton)
- 1991: Best Animated Short Film, Strings, (Wendy Tilby)
- 1992: Best Documentary Short, The Colours of My Father: A Portrait of Sam Borenstein (Joyce Borenstein)
- 1996: Best Animated Short Film, La Salla (Richard Condie)
- 1998: Best Documentary Short, Sunrise Over Tiananmen Square (Shui-Bo Wang)
- 1999: Best Animated Short Film, My Grandmother Ironed the King's Shirts (Torill Kove)
- 1999: Best Animated Short Film, When the Day Breaks (Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis)
- 2001: Best Animated Short Film, Strange Invaders, (Cordell Barker)
- 2008: Best Animated Short Film, Madame Tutli-Putli, (Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski)
- 2011: Best Animated Short Film, Sunday (Dimanche), (Patrick Doyon)
- 2011: Best Animated Short Film, Wild Life, (Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis).
- 2014: Best Animated Short Film, Me and My Moulton, (Torill Kove)
- 2016: Best Animated Short Film, Blind Vaysha, (Theodore Ushev)
- 2019: Best Animated Short Film, Animal Behaviour, (Alison Snowden and David Fine).
Golden Sheaf Awards
The NFB has received more than 110 Golden Sheaf Awards from the Yorkton Film Festival. The following is an incomplete list of the winners.
- 1960: Best of Festival, Universe, (Roman Kroitor, Colin Low)
- 1964: Best of Festival, The Edge of the Barrens, (Dalton Muir)
- 1967: Best of Festival, Paddle to the Sea, (Bill Mason)
- 1969: Best of Festival, Pas de deux, (Norman McLaren)
- 1971: Best of Festival, Blake, (Bill Mason); Best Social Film; Best Direction, (Bill Mason)
- 1975: Best of Festival, Man Who Chooses the Bush, (Tom Radford); Best Documentary; Best Direction (Tom Radford); Best Cinematography (Tony Westman)
- 1975: Best Animation, Hunger / La Faim, (Peter Foldes)
- 1975: Best Direction, Man Who Chooses the Bush, (Tim Radford)
- 1977: Best of Festival, High Grass Circus, (Tony Ianzelo)
- 1977: Best Animation, Mindscape / Le paysagiste, (Jacques Drouin)
- 1979: Best Animation, Blowhard, (Brad Caslor, Christopher Hinton)
- 1979: Best Experimental, Travel Log, (Donald Winkler)
- 1981: Best Direction (film), After the Axe, (Sturla Gunnarsson)
- 1982: Best Direction (Film), End Game in Paris, (Veronika Soul); Best Direction (Veronika Soul)
- 1984: Best Animation, The Boy and the Snow Goose / Le Petit Garçon et l'Oie des neiges, (Gayle Thomas)
- 1984: Best Experimental, Narcissus / Narcisse, (Norman McLaren)
- 1986: Best of Festival, Ikwe, (Norma Bailey); Best Drama Over 30 Minutes; Best Script (Wendy Lill); Best Editing (Lara Mazur)
- 1986: Best Direction, Sonia, (Paul Baillargeon)
- 1986: Best Drama Under 30 Minutes, The Concert Stages of Europe, (Giles Walker)
- 1988: Best of Festival, Foster Child, (Gil Cardinal); Best Documentary Over 30 Minutes; NFB Kathleen Shannon Award
- 1988: Best of Festival, L'emprise, (Michel Brault); Best Direction, (Michel Brault)
- 1988: Best Animation, The Man Who Planted Trees / L'homme qui plantait des arbres, (Frédéric Back)
- 1988: Kathleen Shannon Award Foster Child, (Gil Cardinal)
- 1989: Best of Festival, The Defender, (Stephen Low); Best Cinematography/Videography (Charles Konowal); Best Direction, (Stephen Low); Best Script, (Stephen Low)
- 1989: Best Animation, La lettre d'amour, (Pierre Hébert (cinéaste))
- 1990: Best Drama Over 30 Minutes, Oui Allo! Estelle?, (Francois Dauteuil)
- 1990: Kathleen Shannon Award, Black Mother Black Daughter, (Sylvia Hamilton, Claire Prieto)
- 1991: Best of Festival, Island of Whales, (Mike Poole)
- 1991: Best Drama for Broadcasters, Le Vendredi de Jeanne Robinson, (Yves Dion)
- 1992: Best Animation, Sabina, (Katherine Li)
- 1994: Best of Festival, Folk Art Found Me, (Alex Busby )
- 1996: Best of Festival, Place of the Boss: Utshimassits, (John Walker); Best Documentary over 30 minutes; Best Original Music
- 1996: Best Animation, The Sandbox, (JoDee Samuelson)
- 1997: Best Animation, Ernie's Idea, (Peter Vogler, Claire Maxwell)
- 1998: Best of Festival, Chile, The Obstinate Memory / Chile, la memoria obstinada, (Patricio Guzman); Best Direction, (Patricio Guzman)
- 1998: Best Animation, Children Speak, (Bozenna Heczka, Georgine Strathy)
- 1999: Best Animation, Snow Cat, (Sheldon Cohen)
- 1999: Best Multicultural / Race Relations, Show Girls (Melilan Lam)
- 1999: Best Documentary Short Subject, Sunrise Over Tiananmen Square, (Shui-Bo Wang)
- 2000: Best Animation, My Grandmother Ironed the King's Shirts, (Torill Kove)
- 2001: Best Animation, The Boy Who Saw the Iceberg / Le garçon qui a vu l'iceberg, (Paul Driessen)
- 2001: Best Multicultural / Race Relations, Who Is Albert Woo?, (Hunt Hoe)
- 2002: Best Animation, Glasses, (Brian Duchscherer)
- 2003: Best Animation, Loon Dreaming / Le rêve du huard, (Iriz Pääbo)
- 2003: Best Multicultural / Race Relations, The Murdered Bride, Claude Vickery
- 2004: Best of Festival, Hardwood, (Hubert Davis); Best Documentary Short Subject; Best Direction (Non-Dramatic), (Hubert Davis); Best Editing, (Hubert Davis)
- 2004: Best Animation, Stormy Night, (Michele Lemieux)
- 2004: Best Multicultural, TOTEM: The Return of the G'psgolox Pole, (Gil Cardinal)
- 2005: Best Animation, The Man With No Shadow / L'homme sans ombre, (Georges Schwizgebel)
- 2005: Best Aboriginal, Two Worlds Colliding, (Tasha Hubbard)
- 2005: Best Multicultural / Race Relations, In the Shadow of Gold Mountain, (Karen Cho)
- 2005: Best Documentary Short Subject, Cheating Death, (Eric Geringas)
- 2006: Best Aboriginal, First Stories - Patrick Ross, (Ervin Chartrand)
- 2006: Best Aboriginal, First Stories - Apples & Indians, (Lorne Olson)
- 2006: Best Aboriginal, First Stories - Nganawendaanan Nde'ing / I Keep Them in My Heart, (Shannon Letrandre)
- 2006: Best Aboriginal, First Stories - My Indian Name, (Darryl Nepinak)
- 2006: Best Animation, John and Michael, (Shira Avni)
- 2006: Best Multicultural, Between: Living in the Hyphen, (Anne Marie Nakagawa)
- 2007: Best Aboriginal, Qallunaat: Why White People Are Funny, (Mark Sandiford, Zebedee Nungak)
- 2007: Best Animation, The Danish Poet / Le poète danois , (Torill Kove)
- 2007: Best Experimental, The Sparky Book, (Mary Lewis)
- 2007: Best Multicultural, Reema: There and Back, (Paul-Émile d'Entremont)
- 2009: Best Animation, The Necktie / Le noeud cravate), (Jean Françcois Lévesque)
- 2010: Best Animation, Runaway, (Cordell Barker)
- 2010: Best Emerging Filmmaker, The Man Who Slept (Inés Sedan)
- 2011: Best Aboriginal, Lumaajuuq, (Alethea Arnaquq-Baril)
- 2011: Best of Festival, Lipsett Diaries / Les journaux de Lipsett, (Theodore Ushev); Best Animation; The Founders' Award
- 2011: Best Direction, Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life, (Chris Lavis, Maciek Szczerbowski)
- 2011: Best Experimental, Mamori, (Karl Lemieux)
- 2012: Best Animation,Wild Life, (Amanda Forbis, Wendy Tilby)
- 2013: Best of Festival, Let the Daylight Into the Swamp, (Jeffrey St. Jules); Best Experimental
- 2013: Best Direction Non-Fiction, The Portrait, (Lea Marin)
- 2014: Best Aboriginal, Timuti, (Jobie Weetaluktuk)
- 2014: Best Animation, Gloria Victoria, (Theodore Ushev)
- 2014: Best Director Fiction, Thomas, (Pedro Pires, Robert Lepage); Best Drama
- 2015: Best Animation, Me and My Moulton, (Torill Kove)
- 2016: Best Animation, Carface, (Claude Cloutier)
- 2016: Best Experimental, Mobilize / Mobiliser, (Caroline Monnet)
- 2016: Best Multicultural, The Red Path, (Thérèse Ottawa)
- 2017: Best Animation, Oscar, (Marie-Josée Saint-Pierre)
- 2017: Kathleen Shannon Award, 19 Days, (Asha Siad, Roda Siad)
- 2018: Best of Festival, Skin for Skin, (Kevin D.A. Kurytnik & Carol Beecher); Best Animation
- 2018: Best Experimental, The Tesla World Light, (Matthew Rankin)
- 2018: Best Indigenous, Holy Angels, (Jay Cardinal Villeneuve)
- 2018: Kathleen Shannon Award, Birth of a Family, (Tasha Hubbard)
- 2018: Ruth Shaw (Best of Saskatchewan), Talking at Night, (Eric Thiessen)
- 2019: Best Animation, Bone Mother, (Sylvie Trouvé, Dale Hayward)
- 2019: Kathleen Shannon Award, Beauty, (Christina Willings)
- 2020: Best Animation, The Physics of Sorrow, (Theodore Ushev); Best Director Fiction
- 2020: Best Direction Non-Fiction, Shannon Amen, (Chris Dainty)
- 2020: Best Experimental, No Objects / Sans objets, (Marc Betrand)
- 2020: Best Indigenous, Now is the Time, (Christopher Auchter)
- 2020: Best Multicultural, nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up, (Tasha Hubbard)
- 2020: Best Short Subject, Gun Killers, (Jason Young)
As of April 2014, the NFB has received five Peabody Awards, for the web documentary A Short History of the Highrise, co-produced with The New York Times; the Rezolution Pictures/NFB co-production Reel Injun (2011); Karen Shopsowitz's NFB documentary My Father's Camera (2002), the NFB/Télé-Action co-produced mini-series The Boys of St. Vincent (1995) and the NFB documentary Fat Chance (1994).
NFB Annie Awards nominations include:
Nominated: (incomplete list)
In June 2011, NFB received the Award of Excellence in Interactive Programming from the Banff World Media Festival. In August 2011, the NFB received an outstanding technical achievement in digital media award from the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television.
As of 2016, NFB web documentaries have won 17 Webby Awards, presented International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences for excellence on the internet. Filmmaker-in-Residence, a project by Katerina Cizek about St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, was named best online documentary series at the 2008 Webbys. In 2010, the NFB website Waterlife, on the state of the Great Lakes, won in the Documentary: Individual Episode category. In 2011, Welcome to Pine Point received two Webbys, for Documentary: Individual Episode in the Online Film & Video category and Net art in the Websites category. In 2012, the NFB received two more Webbys, for Bla Bla (best web art) and God's Lake Narrows (best use of photography). In 2013, Bear 71 received the Webby for best net art. In 2014, the interactive photo essay The Last Hunt received a People’s Voice Award Webby for best navigation/structure. In 2015, the NFB-co-produced webdoc Seven Digital Deadly Sins received three People's Voice Awards, chosen by the public online, at the 2015 Webby Awards.
At the 2016 awards, the NFB received six more Webbys: Way to Go received the Webby and People's Voice awards in the Web/NetArt category as well as the Webby for Online Film & Video/VR: Gaming, Interactive or Real-Time. The Unknown Photographer won the People's Voice award in the Online Film & Video/VR: Gaming, Interactive or Real-Time category, while Universe Within received the Webby for Online Film & Video/Best Use of Interactive Video, and Cardboard Crash VR for Google Cardboard won in the category of Online Film & Video/VR: Gaming, Interactive or Real-time (Branded).
- 1980: Inkpot Award
- 2009: Adobe Site of the Day Waterlife
- 2009: Applied Arts Interactive Annual, Selected Capturing Reality
- 2009: CNMA (Canadian New Media Awards), Winner- Best Cross Platform Project Waterlife
- 2009: Digital Marketing Awards, Winner- Best of Show Waterlife
- 2009: Digital Marketing Awards, Winner-DMA Award Capturing Reality
- 2009: Hot Docs, Winner- Special Jury Prize Waterlife
- 2009: On Line Journalism Awards, Winner- Best Multi Media Feature Presentation Waterlife
- 2010: Adobe Site of the Day The Test Tube with David Suzuki
- 2010: Applied Arts Interactive Annual, Selected The Test Tube with David Suzuki
- 2010: Applied Arts Interactive Awards, Winner – Entertainment, Arts and Tourism Holy Mountain
- 2010: Applied Arts Interactive Awards, Winner – Entertainment, Arts and Tourism NFB
- 2010: Applied Arts Interactive Awards, Winner – Experimental and Artistic Flub and Utter
- 2010: Applied Arts Interactive Awards, Winner – Experimental and Artistic The Test Tube with David Suzuki
- 2010: Applied Arts Interactive Awards, Winner – Net Art Holy Mountain
- 2010: Applied Arts Interactive Awards, Winner – On Line Video Flub and Utter
- 2010: Applied Arts Interactive Awards, Winner – Public Service Charity The Test Tube with David Suzuki
- 2010: BaKaFORUM, Winner- Youth Jury Prize Waterlife
- 2010: CNMA (Canadian New Media Awards), Best On Line Program GDP
- 2010: CNMA (Canadian New Media Awards), Community Campaign of the Year The Test Tube with David Suzuki
- 2010: Communication Arts Interactive Annual, Selected Waterlife
- 2010: Communication Arts, Web Pick of the Week The Test Tube with David Suzuki
- 2010: Emmy Awards, International Digital Emmy, Non Fiction Highrise-Out My Window
- 2010: On Line Journalism Awards, Winner- Multi Media Feature Presentation, Small Site This Land
- 2010: SXSW Interactive, Winner, Activism Category Waterlife
- 2010: The FWA, Site of the Day NFB Interactive November 11, 2010
- 2010: The FWA, Site of the Day The Test Tube with David Suzuki October 5, 2010
- 2010: The FWA, Site of the Day Waterlife June 24, 2010
- 2010: IDFA Doc Lab, Winner-Digital Storytelling Highrise-Out My Window
- 2010: SXSW Interactive, Winner-Activism Category Waterlife
- 2011: Applied Arts Interactive Awards, Winner-Entertainment, Arts & Tourism Main Street
- 2011: Applied Arts Interactive Awards, Winner-Entertainment, Arts & Tourism This Land
- 2011: Applied Arts Interactive Awards, Winner-Entertainment, Arts & Tourism Welcome to Pine Point
- 2011: Banff World Television Festival, Interactive Rockie Awards, Winner- Best On Line Program – Documentary Welcome to Pine Point
- 2011: Bellaria (Italy) Documentary Festival, Best Cross Media Doc Welcome to Pine Point
- 2011: Communication Arts Interactive Annual, Selected The Test Tube with David Suzuki
- 2011: Communication Arts, Web Pick of the Day Welcome to Pine Point
- 2011: FITC, Winner, Audio in Flash Highrise-Out My Window
- 2011: FITC, Winner, Flash Narrative Welcome to Pine Point
- 2011: The FWA, Site of the Day Crash Course January 9, 2011
- 2011: The FWA, Site of the Day Welcome to Pine Point February 22, 2011
- 2011: The FWA, Site of the Day Holy Mountain January 17, 2011
- 2011: The Favourite Website Awards (FWA), Site of the Day Highrise- Out My Window January 28, 2011
- 2011: Banff World Television Festival, Interactive Rockie Awards, Winner- Best Francophone – Documentary Holy Mountain
- 2011: Sheffield Documentary Festival, Innovation Documentary Award Welcome to Pine Point
- 2012: Digi Awards (formerly Canadian New Media Awards), Best in Canadian culture Burquette (with Attraction Images and Turbulent Media)
- 2012: Digi Awards (formerly Canadian New Media Awards), Best in web series, non-fiction Bear 71
- 2014: FITC, Winner, Experimental, The Last Hunt
In addition to Neighbours, other NFB productions have been the source of controversy, including two NFB productions broadcast on CBC Television that criticized the role of Canadians in wartime led to questions in the Senate of Canada.
In the early 1970s, two Quebec political documentaries, Denys Arcand's On est au coton and Gilles Groulx's 24 heures ou plus, were initially withheld from release by the NFB due to controversial content.
The Kid Who Couldn't Miss (1982) cast doubt on the accomplishments of Canadian World War I flying ace Billy Bishop, sparking widespread outrage, including complaints in the Senate subcommittee on Veterans' Affairs.
A decade later, The Valour and the Horror outraged some when it suggested that there was incompetence on the part of Canadian military command, and that Canadian soldiers had committed unprosecuted war crimes against German soldiers. The series became the subject of an inquiry by the Senate.
Other controversial productions included the 1981 film Not a Love Story: A Film About Pornography, a 1981 Studio D documentary critiquing pornography that was itself banned in the province of Ontario on the basis of pornographic content. Released the following year, If You Love This Planet, winner of the Academy Award for best documentary short subject, was labelled foreign propaganda under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 in the United States.
NFB on TV
The NFB is a minority owner of the digital television channel, Documentary in Canada. NFB-branded series Retrovision appeared on VisionTV, along with the French-language Carnets ONF series on APTN. Moreover, in 1997 the American cable channel Cartoon Network created a weekly 30-minute show called O Canada specifically showcasing a compilation of NFB-produced works; the segment was discontinued in favour of Adult Swim.
The Board's logo consists of a standing stylized figure (originally green) with its arms wide upward. The arms are met by an arch that mirrors them. The round head in between then resembles a pupil, making the entire symbol appear to be an eye with legs. Launched in 1968, the logo symbolized a vision of humanity and was called "Man Seeing / L'homme qui voit". It was designed by Georges Beaupré. It was updated in 2002 by the firm of Paprika Communications.
NFB in popular media
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