Public Funds, Private Art

I was really pissed at the National Film Board the other day, lol (it’s that time of the month). But seriously. If the purpose of the NFB is to support Canadian cinema, I can’t understand why so many NFB titles aren’t available for sale.

Well, someone must have overheard me. (Actually, I think they made some of the changes years ago.) The NFB’s entire website has been updated, and now you can watch several titles for free. Granted, not all of them are up on the site yet. Exhibit A:

https://www.nfb.ca/film/raisin_kane_a_rapumentary

But newer titles are available for rent, sale, and sometimes free streaming. Like this. This one looks good:

https://www.nfb.ca/film/life_on_victor_street/clip/life-on-victor-clip1

I really want to see more stories from marginalized communities in Canada, particularly in urban areas. And they don’t all have to be documentaries. (Just well-written!)

It’s really important that Canadian content produced in part with taxpayers’ money be accessible to the public. You can’t just fund a film, NFB, and bury one copy of it in your library. How does that support Canadian film? It doesn’t justify public funding. The NFB has to try harder to promote the films it produces. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Maybe the NFB has trouble stepping up because the initial films under its wing were government propaganda films, lol. But hey, times change and institutions should change with them. I won’t grudge the NFB its sketchy history if it puts in work now. I remember the acrobatics I went through to watch Raisin’ Kane when I learned about it. I finally succeeded in watching a VHS copy of it huddled in the corner of Media Commons at Robarts. I also somehow ended up on the director’s mailing list so I got a miraculous email about a screening in, I don’t know, 2009 or 2010. It was during a Jamaican film festival at Innis College. That was cool. I got to hear Alison Duke talk about the film and Spade actually came too.

I’ve never seen this kind of story told better…and I’ve watched a lot of hip hop documentaries. It’s not just because I’m Canadian. I think there’s a level of honesty and commentary here that you can’t always get from other films about independents up against the music industry. Too bad you can’t buy a copy of it for love or money.

And I want more. More films, more docs of this caliber. Here’s hoping for a new era of transparency, accessibility, responsible commerce, and great art. I think that’s pretty much what’s behind the NFB’s plan for the future. Let’s hope it works.

http://onf-nfb.gc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/2013-2018NFBStrategicPlanMay30.pdf

2 thoughts on “Public Funds, Private Art

  1. goldeloxprodcogmailcom says:

    Thanks so much for writing this. I was really quite upset that the NFB didn’t get all of the rights for the music passed 5 years. Who does that in a music documentary? I didn’t know any better because this was my first film. Anyway I was given the go ahead to distribute on my own if I got the rights from Citizen Kane (which is my brother’s band) and I did. I’ve been promising myself to launch on my own but finally found a VOD home for it. So look out for a launch 2016 — 15 years after its first premiere!!!

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