Challenge for Change

Challenge for Change: Activist Documentary at the National Film Board of Canada

THOMAS WAUGH
MICHAEL BRENDAN BAKER
EZRA WINTON
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 599
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt80dz6
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  • Book Info
    Challenge for Change
    Book Description:

    Pioneering participatory, social change-oriented media, the program had a national and international impact on documentary film-making, yet this is the first comprehensive history and analysis of its work. The volume’s contributors study dozens of films produced by the program, their themes, aesthetics, and politics, and evaluate their legacy and the program’s place in Canadian, Québécois, and world cinema. An informative and nuanced look at a cinematic movement, Challenge for Change reemphasizes not just the importance of the NFB and its programs but also the role documentaries can play in improving the world.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8526-3
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Foreword Putting Ideas into the World: A Conversation with Naomi Klein about Starting Conversations with Film
    (pp. xv-2)
    EZRA WINTON and NAOMI KLEIN

    In the fall of 2008 we discussed Challenge for Change/Société nouvelle (CFC/SN) with the daughter of one of the program’s famous and still actively engaged filmmakers. Naomi Klein was knee-high to a grasshopper when her mother, Bonnie Sherr Klein, was making controversial films likeNot a Love Story(1981), but the formative experiences of growing up with a political filmmaker parent and being dragged to emotionally and politically charged community screenings helped shape this activist, writer, journalist, and filmmaker who is arguably one of Canada’s most celebrated and controversial personalities.

    Klein is known around the world for her international best-seller...

  6. 1 Introduction: Forty Years Later … a Space for Challenge for Change/Société nouvelle
    (pp. 3-14)
    MICHAEL BRENDAN BAKER, THOMAS WAUGH and EZRA WINTON

    This book was assembled as Canada hurtled through yet another crisis of late capitalism. Even though the full extent of the global economic downturn was still on the horizon, the October 2008 federal election ominously brought out some of its most disturbing signs – at least in terms of Canadian social and cultural programs. In the wake of vengeful and petty arts funding cuts by the incumbent Tories, rumours had swirled that the first post-election act of a Tory majority would be the axing of the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), and for the first time in Canadian history, arts...

  7. PART 1 HISTORICAL SPACES:: IN THE HEAT OF THE ACTION
    • 2 Grierson and Challenge for Change (1984)
      (pp. 16-23)
      COLIN LOW

      Dr Grierson had a love-hate relationship with the Challenge for Change program. One got the feeling that he sincerely hoped it would succeed but was sure that it would fail.

      He had always talked about the “teacher/filmmaker” the “educator/filmmaker.” He conceded that these people should also be blessed with artistry and wisdom. He tried to preach these people into existence.

      Here, in the late sixties, in this Film Board program, were a few energetic, naïve enthusiasts who, for a short time, believed again that it was possible to change the world with the camera.

      That excited Grierson. They were teachers,...

    • 3 In the Hands of Citizens: A Video Report (1969)
      (pp. 24-33)
      DOROTHY TODD HÉNAUT and BONNIE SHERR KLEIN

      Challenge for Change attempts to implicate the communications media in the process of social change. Very few people have access to the media of communication in our society. This fact is particularly obvious, or at least its consequences are particularly dramatic, in relation to poor people.

      The Fogo Island project used film to catalyze community development by opening channels of communication where few existed. Through film, people talked to each other and talked to their government representatives. In Newfoundland, the cameras have passed from NFB [National Film Board] hands to the NFB-trained hands of community-development workers at Memorial University of...

    • 4 Saint-Jérôme: The Experience of a Filmmaker as Social Animator (1968)
      (pp. 34-37)
      FERNAND DANSEREAU

      A few years ago we shot a film that was intended to be a study of a poor neighbourhood in Montreal –À Saint-Henri le cinq septembre(Hubert Aquin, 1962). When the film went into distribution and was televised, it provoked an astonishingly violent negative reaction from the people who had been filmed. They felt debased by ouroutsiders’observations of them. Worse yet, certain people who played a role in the film felt deeply and personally hurt. One of the families that had been filmed, for example, was overcome with a sort of shame so great they decided to remove...

    • 5 A Voice for Canadian Indians: An Indian Film Crew (1968)
      (pp. 38-40)
      NOEL STARBLANKET

      Eighteen films have been produced about Indians by the National Film Board [NFB], and all of them have been made byoutsiderslooking in on the situation.

      Last year the Challenge for Change program included three more films about Indians. These three were not sponsored by any particular government department with a specific message. They were closer to depicting a truer perspective of the “Indian problem.” However, these films still lacked a real Indian point of view.

      A number of people felt that the next logical step would be to involve Indians as filmmakers. With this in mind, Jerry Gambill...

    • 6 Fiction Film as Social Animator (1971–72)
      (pp. 41-51)
      LÉONARD FOREST and DOROTHY TODD HÉNAUT

      DOROTHY TODD HÉNAUT: I’d like to go back to the very beginning. How did you get the idea for doing a fiction film in New Brunswick and where did you get the people? It seems to me that must be really hard.

      LÉONARD FOREST: Somebody in New York once described it as a “very sophisticated idea” and I was surprised. I never thought of it that way. It was actually an idea that had been labouring in my mind for a long time in very diverse forms. I thought for some time about making a film on a story being...

    • 7 Working with Film: Experiences with a Group of Films about Working Mothers (1975)
      (pp. 52-60)
      KATHLEEN SHANNON, ELIZABETH PRINN, DORIS MAE OULTON and IRENE ANGELICO

      Doris Mae Oulton, Kathleen Shannon, Elizabeth Prinn, and Irene Angelico met together in January to explore the meaning of the Working Mothers workshops. By this time, Kathleen had conducted a number of workshops herself and participated in others. So had Elizabeth, who also had had many years’ experience with media and workshop design before joining the Challenge for Change program three years ago. Irene had been conducting seminars – entitled “Women’s Place, Man’s Place” – at Sir George Williams University, and at the time this tape was made, she was co-directing and coediting a Working Mothers film,“… and They Lived Happily...

    • 8 Memo to Michelle about Decentralizing the Means of Production (1972)
      (pp. 61-65)
      JOHN GRIERSON

      You will remember (Benedictus benedicat) Zavattini’s idea of arming the Italian villages with cameras so they could send film letters to each other. This means, in or out of Italy, handing down the means of larger public expression to the people at the grassroots.

      With cameras becoming smaller and lighter and easier to work and cheaper to buy, the decentralizing of filmmaking becomes an ever more practical possibility. We see it happening with home movies, with moviemaking in research departments, with teaching organizations who make their own films without benefit of clergy.

      I have been watching it even more widely...

    • 9 Can We Evaluate Challenge for Change? (1972)
      (pp. 66-70)
      DAN DRISCOLL

      Recently, I wrote a three-page attempt at ironic fantasy entitled “Confessions of a Media Button Freak,” all about a character who made and wore buttons like “Challenge Me, You Have Nothing to Lose but Your Change.” It lay on my desk over the long Easter weekend and was quite stale when I looked it over on Tuesday. It might be helpful though if I tell you what the main point of the button freak article was. I think I was trying to get at something which is so intangible that it’s damned hard to get a mental hook onto it....

  8. PART 2 Community Spaces:: Filming at the Margins
    • [PART 2 Introduction]
      (pp. 71-72)

      In this second section, five full-length chapters build on the general political problematics that surrounded both the anglophone Challenge for Change program and its francophone counterpart, Société nouvelle. Reconstructing the energy and radical optimism of the late 1960s (as well as the retrenchments of the 1970s), the five authors relate the original anti-poverty and “development” impetus of the programs to their cinematic output. In so doing, they assess two of legacies of CFC/SN that are most important in terms of Canadian cinema and world documentary. The first is the innovation of community-based video, whose legacy is perhaps most alive in...

    • 10 Media for the People: The Canadian Experiments with Film and Video in Community Development (1992)
      (pp. 73-102)
      PETER K. WIESNER

      Organized in 1967 as a consortium of several government agencies, including the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), the Challenge for Change (CFC) program linked film production with film utilization in the hope of using film not only to arouse public concern for the poor and the disenfranchised but also to stimulate positive social change at the grassroots level. Disbanded in 1975 [the program’s last film was released in 1980. – Eds], CFC was “an experimental program to accelerate the understanding and acceptance of the need for constructive change in contemporary society” (Taylor and Taylor 1973). It was part of the...

    • 11 Cities for Change: The Housing Challenge
      (pp. 103-116)
      GERDA JOHANNA CAMMAER

      The Challenge for Change (CFC) program officially started in February 1967, its main purpose to address poverty in Canada. It was also intended that by going to the people, the program would help the poor communicate with the government and vice versa. The idea behind this principle was to use participatory documentary as a means of enhancing participatory democracy. Many early CFC films – for example,Up against the System(Terence Macartney-Filgate, 1967) – expose some of the attitudes towards the poor that are engrained in a social system that helps to keep them poor and does not allow them freedom of...

    • 12 The En tant que femmes Series, the Film Souris, tu m’inquiètes, and the Imaging of Women’s Consciousness in 1970s Quebec
      (pp. 117-135)
      MARIE-ÈVE FORTIN

      Amidst the tumultuous political and social climate of Quebec in the 1970s arose the National Film Board’s (NFB’S) program Société nouvelle (SN), an endeavour both to defend and to engage the political interests of the population while simultaneously promoting the social agenda of the Liberal Party of Canada, in power in Ottawa for the entire stretch of the program’s existence, from 1967 to 1980.¹

      Since the beginning of the twentieth century, in keeping with widespread rebellion against social inequalities, women had converged to form a coalition of broad proportions. Through revolutionary and legal battles, proponents of the women’s movement systematically...

    • 13 Le mouton noir: Vidéographe and the Legacy of Société nouvelle
      (pp. 136-148)
      SCOTT MacKENZIE

      While Challenge for Change/Société nouvelle (CFC/SN) is best known for the series of films made under its auspices at the National Film Board of Canada/Office national du film (NFB/ONF) in the late 1960s and early 1970s, lesser known is the perhaps nonetheless more influential video access program that emerged, in the first instance, as a subsidiary to Société nouvelle: Vidéographe.¹

      Vidéographe was the first independent alternative video production house in North America. Its work in alternative production, distribution, and exhibition became the model on which many other alternative media projects were built among grassroots organizations in the early 1970s. Vidéographe...

    • 14 The Things I Cannot Change: A Revisionary Reading
      (pp. 149-166)
      BRENDA LONGFELLOW

      Launched with incredible fanfare in a national broadcast on the cbc, 3 May 1967,The Things I Cannot Change (TTICC), Tanya Ballantyne Tree’s 52-minute, black and white, cinéma-vérité documentary on the poverty-stricken Bailey family in west endMontreal has to go down in Canadian film history as one of the most controversial films ever released by the National Film Board (NFB), one that continues to enrage critics and fellow documentary practitioners up to the present moment.

      The first in what was intended to be a series of films about poverty, jointly subsidized by the NFB and the Privy Council, the film...

  9. PART 3 Screen Spaces:: Spotlight on the Films and Filmmakers
    • [PART 3 Introduction]
      (pp. 167-168)

      The following section offers sixteen capsule chapters focusing either on individual films or groups of films or on individual filmmakers within CFC/SN. These essays remind us how specific documentaries and artists were positioned within the often bureaucratic studio programs and not always progressive political frameworks, and how CFC and SN were the platform for a range of styles, personalities, and politics. These fourteen authors, artists as well as academics, pursue a range of approaches, linking socio-political context to cinematic for, and often incorporating new archival research or oral histories.

      The importance of the latter is foregrounded by this section’s spotlight...

    • 15 You Are on Indian Land: Interview with George Stoney (1980)
      (pp. 169-179)
      ALAN ROSENTHAL

      The essence of George Stoney’s thinking is that film can and should be used as one of the prime tools for social change. This was the key to his role in the NFB’s Challenge for Change program [see also Boyle, chapter 30, this volume] and is the core of his continuing work in New York.

      But what are the responsibilities of the filmmaker in this task? Where does one place oneself? Is one’s main responsibility to society in general, to the people being filmed, to the network, or to somewhere else entirely? And how and when should the filmmaker, if...

    • 16 Cree Hunters of Mistassini: Challenge for Change and Aboriginal Rights
      (pp. 180-189)
      MICHELLE STEWART

      Cree Hunters of Mistassini(Boyce Richardson and Tony Ianzelo, 1974) is perhaps one of the best known films of the Challenge for Change (CFC) era.² Upon its release,Cree Hunterswas broadcast nationally and internationally, earning much critical and public acclaim. For his part, co-director Boyce Richardson has always marvelled at the fact that even though he had never made a film before, he was able to get the word out about the Cree Nation’s struggle to protect its culture and territory in the face of Hydro-Québec’s James Bay proposal (1971): “With no resources or filmmaking skills, I managed to get...

    • 17 “Nation Time” at Kwacha House: The Transitional Modalities of Encounter at Kwacha House – Halifax
      (pp. 190-200)
      KASS BANNING

      At first glanceEncounter at Kwacha House – Halifax(Rex Tasker, 1967) offers a straightforward 17-minute black and white vérité snapshot of predominantly young black people in lively debate with community activists about the pressing issues of the day, concerns that shadowed young black Haligonians in the mid-sixties, namely racialized employment, education, and housing practices. The participants heatedly voice first-hand accounts of materialized racism, a modified form of Jim Crow writ large.¹ The merits and utility of the protest strategies enacted by the U.S. civil rights movement, as well as whether these tactics (ranging from moderate forms of civil disobedience, such...

    • 18 The Films of Maurice Bulbulian: Science and Conscience
      (pp. 201-209)
      THOMAS WAUGH

      Maurice Bulbulian has only recently slowed down his prodigious output as a quiet dynamo of Quebec documentary since the 1960s. Of major Quebec filmmakers, he is perhaps the least known to English-language audiences, and only a couple of his English-language epics on Canadian constitutional quagmires and West Coast native issues in the 1980s and 1990s respectively drew attention from Toronto cinematic tastemakers.¹ Bulbulian officially contributed four films to Société nouvelle (SN) over a six-year period between 1968 and 1974 –La p’tite Bourgogne (Little Burgundy,1968, 44 min.),Un lendemain comme hier(A tomorrow like yesterday, 1970, 42 min.),Dans nos...

    • 19 The Curious Case of Wilf: Popular Music in Canadian Documentary
      (pp. 210-217)
      MICHAEL BRENDAN BAKER

      The National Film Board of Canada can lay claim to a number of groundbreaking (and genre-defining) documentary films on a range of socially and politically engaged subjects. The NFB also participated in the first international wave of documentaries on contemporary popular music subjects, with major Canadian figures like Paul Anka and Leonard Cohen taking centre stage in the filmsLonely Boy(Roman Kroitor and Wolf Koenig, 1962) andLadies and Gentleman … Mr. Leonard Cohen(Donald Brittain and Don Owen, 1965). And while the NFB’s interest in both political and cultural subject matter continues to this day, rarely have politics...

    • 20 Portapak as Performance: VTR St-Jacques and VTR Rosedale
      (pp. 218-233)
      BRIAN RUSTED

      If documentaries pose a critical problem, it is not one tangled in a crisis of representation that tries to resolve whether the art of film impedes its objectivity or how it is that stylistic strategies convince audiences that a given documentary transparently reproduces their notions of the real. The problem is more productively seen as archaeological (Shanks 2004): how to embody documentary texts found resting amongst sedimentations of bygone intentions, aesthetics, social practices, and prior critical readings. Connoisseurship alone does not let a contemporary audience inhabit the spaces of makers or audiences remote in time however much we insist that,...

    • 21 Bonnie Klein, Saul Alinsky, and the American Experience
      (pp. 234-241)
      STEPHEN MICHAEL CHARBONNEAU

      In 1968 Bonnie Sherr Klein directed a series of five films for Challenge for Change (CFC) entitled “The Alinsky Approach: Organizing for Power.” Arranged thematically fromPeople and PowertoA Continuing Responsibility,this series attempted a form of filmic pedagogy aimed at outlining Saul Alinsky’s theories of social transformation. In fact, these were not the first films produced by CFC that sought to illustrate Alinsky’s ideas. Three earlier films –Saul Alinsky Went to Waras well asEncounter with Saul Alinsky, Parts IandII– were directed by Peter Pearson in 1967 and similarly functioned to disseminate Alinsky’s approach,...

    • 22 Michel Régnier’s “Films-Outil”
      (pp. 242-250)
      LIZ CZACH

      In neither the histories of the National Film Board (NFB) nor those of the Challenge for Change/Société nouvelle (CFC/SN) program does film director Michel Régnier figure prominently. His absence is particularly troubling considering he was the most prolific director working on either the French-or the English-language side of CFC/SN. Credited with twenty-five films during his association with the program, Régnier directed two large-scale projects: Urbanose, a series of fifteen black-and-white, half-hour films exploring urban development issues in Montreal; and Urba 2000, a series of ten hour-length, colour films addressing urban issues in various cities across the globe.¹

      Why then, despite...

    • 23 Léonard Forest and Acadia
      (pp. 251-258)
      JEANNE DESLANDES

      At the National Film Board of Canada, Léonard Forest was more than simply a filmmaker. Directly involved in over 150 films during a thirty-year career, he was first a scriptwriter and translator and later became a script editor, director, and producer. In 1957 he became the director of the French Production Branch (Déléas 1998, 31–4). In 1970 he took charge of the restructuring of the NFB team, Groupe de recherches sociales (GRS), which, while joining the Challenge for Change (CFC) program in the institutional sense, acquired its own identity as Société nouvelle (SN), retaining its own ideology in its...

    • 24 Filmmaker as History: The Interventionist Films of Martin Duckworth
      (pp. 259-268)
      MICHAEL LITHGOW

      Martin Duckworth is one of Canada’s hardest working filmmakers and has been for over forty years. He has directed more than twenty-five documentaries and served as director of photography (DOP) on another sixty film projects. He has received over twenty awards for his film work. He is an important Canadian documentary storyteller, and he attributes the direction of his film career to early work he did with Challenge for Change (CFC).

      Duckworth’s filmmaking can be roughly organized into four phases: (1) his early “experimental” work (arguably, a kind of filmmaker’sjuvenilia); (2) his films about place, captured through the political...

    • 25 Les filles du Roy
      (pp. 269-276)
      JERRY WHITE

      Someone looking at Anne Claire Poirier’sLes filles du Roy(1974) might not immediately know that it was produced as part of Société nouvelle (SN), the French-language sister program of Challenge for Change (CFC). The film is a meditation on the history of Quebec and an attempt to intervene in that historical understanding by giving a central place to gender politics. It is an eccentric, slightly brooding film, one that does not connect to any specific community beyond that of lesQuébécoisessince the 1600s. I am not, of course, the first person to point out the degree to which...

    • 26 In Praise of Anomaly: Le bonhomme and Rose’s House
      (pp. 277-284)
      KALLI PAAKSPUU

      Two bold films from Montreal and Toronto, respectivelyLe bonhomme(Pierre Maheu, 1972) andRose’s House(Clay Borris, 1977), emerged within the context of 1970s political activism and aesthetic confrontation as part the National Film Board’s (NFB’S) politically charged Challenge for Change (CFC) and Société nouvelle (SN) programs. Both films were anomalies within their respective program, each going beyond the programs’ mandate to provoke public policy debates and empower citizens to deliver atypical and highly personal reflections on the countercultural shifts and minority and subcultural formations in Canada’s two metropoles. Maheu (1939–79) pushed the legacy of direct cinema to...

    • 27 Getting Close and Staying Far: Pierre Lasry and the Solo Moms
      (pp. 285-294)
      JASON LINDOP

      Documentary representations of the historical world sometimes interact with filmmaker-centred tactics of self-legitimization, as considerations of accuracy are measured in relation to how such tactics will reflect on the film. Desired impressions of empathetic closeness or interrogative competence may be achieved through valorizing their human subjects, or at the price of degrading them. The two English-language documentary shorts that Pierre Lasry made about Montreal-based single mothers, as part of the National Film Board’s (NFB’S) Challenge for Change (CFC) series, illustrate such contrasting tendencies.¹

      Mrs. Case(1969, 14 min.) reveals the economic difficulties of an impoverished mother of five and focuses...

    • 28 Paper Wheat: Alternative Theatre Meets Alternative Filmmaking
      (pp. 295-302)
      CHRISTOPHER MEIR

      With these words, spoken near the end of the filmPaper Wheat(Albert Kish, 1979), Andras Tahn, creative director of the 25th Street Theatre, expresses the excitement that had surrounded the stage play of the same name. Released in 1979,Paper Wheatwas one of the last films produced for the Challenge for Change/Société nouvelle (CFC/SN) program. The film was also one of the program’s most popular productions, having been broadcast on the CBC in 1979 and subsequently excerpted for the NFB filmScenes from PaperWheat(Rita Roy, 1981). Tahn’s words specifically refer to how the stage production ofPaper...

    • 29 “Would I Ever Like to Work”: The “Working Mothers” Films and the Construction of Community
      (pp. 303-313)
      RINA FRATICELLI

      The woman stands at her kitchen sink washing dishes, her seven hyper kids at the table behind her, alternately inhaling their lunch and making mayhem with it. We hear the voice of the filmmaker off-screen casually ask, “Would you like to work?” The pure longing in the answer, “Oh, would Ieverlike to work,” packs a punch, providing the film with its title.

      Would I Ever Like to Workis one of the eleven short films that make up the 1974–75 Working Mothers films.¹ This groundbreaking collection of films captures some of the most enduring and salient features...

    • 30 O, Canada! George Stoney’s Challenge (1999)
      (pp. 314-322)
      DEIRDRE BOYLE

      In a career that has spanned continents and centuries, George Stoney has become a legend. Having researched his life to write a broad-strokes profile of him for theIndependentin 1997 (Boyle 1997, 10–18), I was curious to know more, especially about his two-year stint as executive producer of the Challenge for Change (CFC) program at the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). On his return to the United States in 1970, Stoney went to New York University, where he co-founded the Alternate Media Center, launching a national public access movement in cable television that continues to this day,...

  10. PART 4 Discursive Spaces:: Theorizing Challenge for Change/Société nouvelle
    • [PART 4 Introduction]
      (pp. 323-324)

      This section brings together six robust chapters that all tackle complicated, controversial, and enduring theoretical questions surrounding Challenge for Change/Société nouvelle. This critical analysis probes the ideological and epistemological currents of the program, troubling their conceptual frameworks – or in some cases the lack thereof. These seven authors (chapter 36 is co-authored) cut through the rhetoric and hype of CFC/SN and present provocative perspectives on the initiative’s theoretical flashpoints: knowledge/power, cultural citizenship, access/agency, participatory democracy, the public sphere and counterpublics, praxis, identities, and the holy grail for activist media, community. Taken together, these six contributions engage critically with the “big ideas”...

    • 31 Société nouvelle: The Challenge to Change in the Alternative Public Sphere (1996)
      (pp. 325-336)
      SCOTT MacKENZIE

      In the late 1960s, the direction of Québécois filmmaking undertook a dramatic shift. Sidestepping attempts to build a united collectivity behind the notion of the French-Canadian nation-state that characterized much of thecinéma directmovement, Québécois cinema and video, under the auspices of the National Film Board of Canada/Office national du film (NFB/ONF), began to explore the means by which these organizations could get media into the hands of the people. These goals were to be achieved at the Board through the creation of two programs: Challenge for Change and its francophone counterpart, Société nouvelle. While in many ways the...

    • 32 Meeting at the Poverty Line: Government Policy, Social Work, and Media Activism in the Challenge for Change Program
      (pp. 337-353)
      ZOË DRUICK

      The Challenge for Change/Société nouvelle (CFC/SN) program at the National Film Board (NFB) marks one of the institution’s most notable undertakings. Established in 1967 and producing nearly 250 films over a more than ten-year period, the program continues to emblematize the possibilities of a kind of filmmaking that is at once radical and public. The nfb itself utilizes the positive legacy of this moment to convey core values associated with newer initiatives, such as its CitizenShiftprogram. The films made in the CFC/SN program constitute a unique and valuable archive, expressing a kind of political engagement rare on Canadian screens....

    • 33 Amateur Video and the Challenge for Change (1995)
      (pp. 354-365)
      JANINE MARCHESSAULT

      Nineteen hundred and sixty-seven was an important year for Canada. As a centennial celebration of Confederation, Expo ’67 (Montreal) saw the convergence of technology and nationalism as never before. IMAX, the largest screen in the world, could, we were told, only have been invented in Canada. The spectacular five-screen cinematic feat, devised by the National Film Board of Canada’s (NFB’S) Unit B, epitomized the image of nationhood: technological mastery, natural abundance, and an open multi-accented democratic participation. Its theme, in the Unit B tradition, was the wonder of human life. Cognitive and technological development were harmoniously synchronized in a symphony...

    • 34 Video: The Politics of Culture and Community (1996)
      (pp. 366-388)
      RON BURNETT

      Portable video use has exploded worldwide. Since its appearance in the late 1960s video has become the medium of choice for larger and larger numbers of people from a variety of diverse constituencies. Community, gay, and feminist organizations, environmental and social advocacy groups, nongovernmental organizations in developing countries, and mainstream and alternative political and cultural formations in North America and Europe have made active use of video for information gathering, political agitation, artistic experimentation, and the distribution and dissemination of local and transnational debates and ideas.

      In southern or developing countries, video has been embraced in much the same way...

    • 35 Winds and Things: Towards a Reassessment of the Challenge for Change/Société nouvelle Legacy
      (pp. 389-403)
      MARIT KATHRYN CORNEIL

      Forty years after its inception, twenty-eight years after it was laid to rest, the legendary National Film Board of Canada/Office national du film (NFB/ONF) program Challenge for Change/Société nouvelle (CFC/SN) is raising its sleepy eyes to look anew at the world. The program was in many ways a political project, one that put the means of media production into the hands of citizens and, so the legend goes, overcame the ethical dilemmas of representation, liberating minority groups from becoming the victims and stereotypes of both media and government. But today the inheritors of this project encounter a world where access...

    • 36 “If a Revolution Is Screened and No One Is There to See It, Does It Make a Sound?” The Politics of Distribution and Counterpublics
      (pp. 404-424)
      EZRA WINTON and JASON GARRISON

      There are many dirty little secrets swishing around the film industry, but the least-glamorous and most academically overlooked one happens to involve the very foundational measure of success the whole structure rests upon. Ask any independent filmmaker, they’ll tell you: it’s the distribution, stupid. And so, while film and video technology simplifies and reduces in size and cost, and while cameras and their power to document the world have fallen into the hands of the citizenry, radical changes in production alone do not put the full power of cinema at the ready. Distributive structures shape the cinema we see (and...

  11. PART 5 Conclusion:: Contemporary Reincarnations
    • [PART 5 INTRODUCTION]
      (pp. 425-426)

      In this section, two current participatory media projects are examined in relation to the ethos of Challenge for Change/Société nouvelle, with similarities and divergences highlighted in each chapter. In both cases, the participants themselves describe video (or visual media) as a tool for advocacy, as a bridge for communities and issues, and as a pathway for the articulation of social justice and human rights issues. While CFC/SN may have lived out its exciting and rocky moments some four decades prior to the publishing of this book, we offer these parting glimpses of contemporary renewals to demonstrate how this bold National...

    • 37 Filmmaker-in-Residence: The Digital Grandchild of Challenge for Change
      (pp. 427-442)
      KATERINA CIZEK and LIZ MILLER

      Katerina Cizek is the National Film Board of Canada’s Filmmaker-in-Residence (FIR), based in an inner-city hospital where she is passionately reenvisioning Challenge for Change in the age of the digital revolution. Under the auspices of this experimental initiative, conceived of as “an alternative model of media-making” (http://filmmakerinresidence.nfb.ca/) and fully funded by the NFB, Katerina has been collaborating with doctors, nurses, researchers, and patients at St Michael’s Hospital, a teaching university affiliated with the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine, one of the largest medical schools in North America. With a background in anthropology and an established practice of making engaged...

    • 38 Thirty Years and Twelve Thousand Miles Away …
      (pp. 443-452)
      VIJAYA MULAY

      “Let good thoughts and ideas come to us from all over the world,” says theRigveda,¹ the most ancient text of India. The Challenge for Change/Société nouvelle (CFC/SN) program undertaken by the National Film Board of Canada from 1967 to 1980 was one such good idea, one that has reappeared in many avatars in other parts of the world. Though different in many ways and influenced only indirectly by CFC/SN,² the Community Media Trust (CMT) program of the Deccan Development Society (DDS) of Hyderabad in India, started in 1996, is, in my opinion, much closer to the ideology, passion, and...

  12. Challenge for Change/Société nouvelle: The Complete Filmography
    (pp. 453-512)
  13. Comprehensive Bibliography
    (pp. 513-538)
  14. Contributors
    (pp. 539-548)
  15. Index
    (pp. 549-574)