Documentary: The Devil’s Toy

Another classic gem from the National Film Board of Canada, this short documentary by Claude Jutra shows how the authorities struggled with skateboarding since its inception. The film is shot in Montreal in 1966. As you’ll see at the beginning of the film, it has been dedicated to “all victims of intolerance.”

This short video below shows how far skateboarding has come. Bob Burnquist‘s home mega-ramp seems like a case of life imitating art (ie. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater), more than anything else.

Documentary: Headline Hunters

Here’s a little nugget from the National Film Board archives. It gives us a taste of the way news was collected during WWII.

What I found most interesting, is the fact that the correspondents are all uniformed. Debate over whether or not to embed with the military in war zones continues, but during the ’40s the reporters were apparently just a part of the military. I guess this shouldn’t come as a surprise— George Orwell famously became a propagandist during the war. If it was good enough for Orwell, it must have been acceptable to those who are far less critical of the state’s political apparatus and empire.

As an aside, check out the BBC’s archive of primary documents relating to George Orwell. I especially enjoy this one, in which he considers the ramifications of using his popular pseudonym, George Orwell, rather than his real name, Eric Blair. The letter explaining his resignation from the BBC is also interesting.

Documentary: RiP! A Remix Manifesto

Who else here loves that our state-funded National Film Board is involved in distributing anti-establishment material like the above documentary? But seriously, Rip! is a great piece about the ongoing international battle between creators and owners. It’s fun, engaging, educational, and there’s an element of subversive rabble-rousing that makes the viewer feel as though she or he is in on some sort of conspiracy.

Documentary: The Defender

What a surprise! Another post about a documentary; another classic from the National Film Board of Canada! Like Project Grizzly and The Devil at Your Heels, this feature tells the story of one man with a dream. Stephen Low’s The Defender (1988) follows our hero Bob Diemert as he builds a fighter jet — something that hasn’t been done in Canada since the Avro Arrow project in the mid-50’s.

However, unlike the Arrow, which was designed to reach Mach 2 and heights of 15 km, Diemert’s fighter (named The Defender) is designed to fly slow and low. Diemert imagines that the greatest threat to Canada’s national security is the potential for a Soviet ground invasion which would rely primarily on tanks (recall that this film was released about a year before the Berlin Wall came down). Thus, he theorizes that the best defence would be heavily armoured planes (like winged tanks) that could be built cheaply and in vast quantities.

It sounds a little bit outlandish, but Diemert is a respected aviation engineer. He has numerous vintage fighter plane reconstructions and restorations under his belt. Will his technical know-how and strategic thinking yield a top-seller? Or, will his dream be too unwieldy to get off the runway? The only way to find out is by watching The Defender.

Documentary: History on the Run

Peter Raymont’s History on the Run: The Media and the ’79 Election takes a look behind the scenes at the process of reporting the Canadian federal election of 1979. It takes a page out of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 by focusing on the journalists rather than the candidates. However, Thompson’s profanity-laced and heavily embellished renderings are replaced by sober and factual documentation; the likes of which one would expect from the National Film Board of Canada.

Both Thompson’s book and the above film characterize so-called pack journalism, wherein a group of journalists depend on information, scoops, and tips from each other, while the entire group essentially relies on a single source for its info feed. The risk under such conditions is a single version of events that is reported consistently across the spectrum of media outlets.

Do you recall my post about the documentary, Action: the October Crisis of 1970? In it I brought up Tim Ralfe, the CBC reporter behind the famous “Well, just watch me…” Trudeau interview. As an interesting tidbit (to me at least), he shows up around 35 minutes into this film as the director of communications for Progressive Conservative Joe Clark‘s campaign.

Spoiler alert: Pierre Trudeau loses to Clark.

On a personal, albeit remotely related note, I just had my first day back at school! I feel like a kid again. I’m starting a two-year Broadcast Journalism program at BCIT. So far, so good. The content looks like it’ll be interesting, and a little bit fun. It should be quite a bit different than the liberal arts education that UBC straightened me out with.