Awake to a National Film Board of Canada dream

Free catalogue of Canadian film offers much-needed entertainment in time of self-isolation

Image of 'Ice Breakers' provided by NFB

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While most of us are locked away due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are spending our time watching streaming services.

One option — a Canadian option that is absolutely free — is the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) website.

A nearly endless catalogue of free content made for and by Canadians, the NFB website hosts feature length films, documentaries, animations and short films for a wide range of audiences.

Known internationally as one of the great laboratories of audio-visual creativity, the NFB is a public producer and distributor of thousands of audio-visual productions.

Since its founding in 1939, the NFB has been involved in over 13,000 productions. Throughout that long history, it has garnered more than 5,000 awards including 18 Canadian Screen Awards, 12 Academy Awards, 17 Webby Awards and over 90 Genie Awards.

There are also several major new releases featured on the website, including Ice Breakers, a 15-minute documentary by Sandamini Rankaduwa following Josh Crooks, a promising teen athlete, that shows his connection to the often overlooked history of black hockey players in Canada. Another is Where the Land Ends, a 90-minute documentary by Loïc Darses exploring Quebec youth and the continuing questions following the 1995 referendum.

Additionally, the NFB is just finishing its three-year plan — “Redefining the NFB’s Relationship with Indigenous Peoples” — to promote Indigenous filmmakers and creators at all levels of the industry.

As a result, the NFB currently runs a bevy of Indigenous content for all audiences — films, shorts, documentaries and animations cover dozens of topics including cultural identity, self-determination and history, to name a few.

While the organization of its user-interface can be cumbersome, the NFB maintains playlists tied together by themes, topics, creators, film festivals or catalogued by invited expert, an especially useful function for finding specific content in a sea of films.

Highlights include Comic Strip Chronicles — a series of animated shorts by cartoonists-turned-filmmakers — and the True North Series by Ryan Sidhoo, a nine-part docu-series that focuses on Toronto’s youth basketball scene.

The NFB catalogue even includes a “NFB at the Oscars” list, a full list of nominated and Oscar-winning shorts and documentaries such as Ryan and The Danish Poet — Academy Award winners for Best Animated Short Film in 2004 and 2006, respectively.

Films span the decades, from short documentaries shot during the Second World War to modern features about contemporary issues, resulting in hours of absolutely free entertainment.

 

To access the NFB catalogue, go to nfb.ca.