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History

The Little Black School House

An unflinching look at the heart of racial inequality in Canada This one-hour documentary unearths the story of the children, women, men who were students and teachers in Canada’s racially segregated schools. With a vibrant musical score composed by jazz legend, Joe Sealy, it is a poignant and unfailingly honest evocation of the struggle of African Canadians to achieve dignity and equality through education. Extraordinary archival film footage, rare photographs, and touching first hand accounts from past students, teachers, historians and community leaders, are interwoven in this unflinching look at the heart of racial inequality in Canada. Shot on location in villages and cities in Ontario and Nova Scotia, the film is a compelling illustration of how many of the students who attended Canada’s all-Black schools look back on the experience with conflicting feelings: fondness for the dedication of their Black teachers, and outrage at being denied a right, fundamental to democracy in Canada: equal access to quality education.

Living In The Shadow

A look at the relief effort put together by the Ukrainian Canadian diaspora in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster and how that potentially led to independence. Includes never before seen first hand photos and video footage of the disaster zone, taken a few short years after the accident.

St-Henri, the 26th of August

On August 26th, 2010, fourteen filmmakers recorded multiple stories in the Montreal neighbourhood of Saint-Henri. The resulting film is a touching, funny and fascinating day-in-the-life of an eclectic community. Doris roams the streets collecting bottles; Belinda is a vibrant hair stylist from Togo; Babyface, the fifteen-year-old Canadian featherweight boxing champion, prepares for a match; Robert and Edmée enjoy their golden years together; and urban explorer Danielle scales abandoned buildings and descends into Saint-Henri's sewers. These are just a few of the characters we follow in St-Henri, the 26th of August, a film that explores what community means to us today, and how we inhabit our neighbourhoods. Inspired by the 1962 NFB film "À Saint-Henri, le cinq septembre", this unique collaborative project brings together some of the brightest talents in Montreal’s contemporary documentary scene to capture these compelling stories.

Twice Upon A Garden

Created during the 1930s, not far from the 49th parallel, Les Jardins de Métis are unlike any other. Situated at the confluence of the Mitis, the legendary salmon river, and the majestic St. Lawrence estuary, they are protected by the site's unique geography and microclimate. This botanical paradise stems from the labours of Elsie Reford, who in 1926 decided to transform her Gaspé fishing camp into gardens. Today, they display some 3,000 species and varieties of indigenous and exotic plants along a kilometre and a half of pathways. Every year, tens of thousands of visitors come to see Elsie's gardens, which have constantly evolved over the past eighty years, as well as the International Garden Festival, which was founded by her great grandson Alexander, and which celebrated its 10th edition in 2009. A film on both the art of nature and the nature of art, Il était deux fois un jardin provides an inside look at these gardens and their growers. We see the plants throughout the seasons: during a memorable winter blizzard, in torrential rain, in serene summer nights, in the last rays of autumn sunsets. We also get a glimpse of several artists as they set up their installations for the festival.

Song of the Lodz Ghetto

Song of the Lodz Ghetto, the new feature-length documentary by David Kaufman, is a comprehensive historical account of Poland’s “first and last” Jewish ghetto, established by the Nazis during the Second World War in Lodz, Poland’s leading industrial centre. It was the first closed ghetto established in 1940 and the last to be liquidated in August, 1944. The film has a particular focus on music in the Ghetto and is built around a selection of ghetto songs performed by the renowned Jewish music group, Brave Old World. The film is also the first documentary to feature extensive interviews with survivors of the Lodz Ghetto. The film tells its story partially through a focus on two historical figures: the controversial, despotic, Nazi-appointed Jewish leader of the ghetto, Chaim Rumkowski, who is reviled by many historians, and the Ghetto’s popular street-singer, Yankele Herszkowicz, whose remarkable songs lifted the spirits of the Jews of the ghetto when their lives were full of despair, and whose own tragic life mirrored the fate of Polish Jewry. Rumkowski was a Jewish community functionary, elevated by the Nazis to lead the Ghetto, who gambled on German economic self-interest to sustain the lives of the large, highly-skilled and productive Jewish labour force. Herskowicz was a poor tailor who had a genius for broadside lyrics and who sang, literally for his supper, to keep himself alive in the impoverished ghetto and who formed a one-man opposition to the corrupt ghetto administration. The film is also a feast of historical photography, three hundred images selected from 13,000 taken in the Lodz Ghetto, including many in colour. The film features interviews with many survivors from Lodz including Chava Rosenfarb, the renowned Yiddish writer who died recently, with Herszkowicz’s family, and with several historians.

Painting Daddy

Painting Daddy is a daughter’s concrete poem filmed in moving images about her artist father, Jan Burka.

Skate to Survive

This documentary follows the artistic life and struggle of figure skating coach and choreographer Ellen Burka from pre-war Amsterdam, to Westerbork and Theresienstadt concentration camps, to Dutch national champion in 1946, bohemian Toronto in the 1950’s and finally world skating celebrity.
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