:themeCode = ART

:lg = en

Documentary Lens

Arts, Culture and Recreation

Many NFB documentaries celebrate the vision and innovation of Canadian artists. Others demonstrate how our pastimes reflect our cultural values.


Boy Meets Band

Boy Meets Band 1

Canadian Landscape

Canadian Landscape 1


Earthware 1


Kubota 1

Pen Point Percussion

Pen Point Percussion 1

Snow Dream

Snow Dream 1

Snow Dream 2

The films under this theme are Boy Meets Band (1961), Canadian Landscape (1941), Earthware (1975), Kubota (1982), Pen Point Percussion (1951) and Snow Dream (1983). The films document different decades, different arts and different approaches to documentary filmmaking. What to Watch For, in the About the Film section has additional questions.

1. Most of the films state or imply something about the act of creation.

  • Watch all of the excerpts. For each one, write a brief statement answering the question "What does an artist do?" as it might be answered by the excerpt. For instance, an answer for Canadian Landscape might be "An artist reduces what he sees in nature to its basic shapes." You may find more than one statement for each excerpt. Students will have to infer many of these responses.
  • In groups, discuss the statements and come to consensus about the best wording for them. Collect the statements into a list to show the variety of definitions of an artist.

2. The collection of films reveals a tension between the artist as a preserver of traditions and as an individual creator. (You may want to include CÚsar's Bark Canoe, The Living Stone and Eskimo Arts and Crafts from the Aboriginal Perspectives Web site to this list of films.)

  • What films stress individual creativity? What are the particular kinds of innovations each artist demonstrates?
  • Which films demonstrate the artist as a preserver of cultural traditions? What traditions do they maintain and pass on?
  • Are both aspects of art equally valid?

3. The artists in the films work in very different media. (Again, CÚsar's Bark Canoe, The Living Stone and Eskimo Arts and Crafts from the Aboriginal Perspectives Web site may be included.)

  • For each film describe the media the artist uses. There may be more than one for each artist.
  • Any medium puts limits on what an artist can create, but each one also offers unique possibilities. Carving snow, for instance, is limited to a season of the year and is not permanent. On the other hand, the block of snow can be very large and it is easily carved into a variety of shapes. How does each artist stretch the possibilities of the medium?

4. Documentary filmmaking is an art as well, so some of the films demonstrate one art reflecting another art.

  • Which films take a very 'artistic' approach to the art they illustrate?
  • What film techniques do the filmmakers use to capture the creativity of the artists at work? Find specific examples.

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