OTTAWA – The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is approaching its 70th anniversary. Sadly, the mood among NFB staff is less-than-celebratory. Successive cutbacks have pared back the organization’s resources so dramatically that employees are starting to question the NFB’s ability to fulfill its mission.
In an attempt to reverse 15 years of harsh cutbacks, 260 NFB employees will launch a public awareness campaign tomorrow to remind Canadians of the invaluable role the NFB plays in Canadian culture, and the need for adequate funding to ensure the survival of this truly Canadian institution. Founded in 1939, the NFB has created more than 13,000 titles, won over 5,000 awards, garnered more than 90 Genie awards, received over 70 Oscar nominations and landed 12 Oscars.
The campaign is a collaborative effort among NFB staff belonging to Locals 2656 and 4835 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
Serge Gaspard Gaudreau is a graphic artist and president of one of CUPE’s NFB locals. Gaudreau, who has worked at the NFB for 30 years, has watched cutbacks undermine the NFB’s mandate. “Everyone at the Film Board reports the same thing. The Canadian government is letting the NFB go downhill,” said Gaudreau. “The budgetary allocations have remained practically unchanged since the beginning of the 1990s. The result: we are losing precious expertise and unique techniques; the capacity to create and produce has declined; many programmes in collaboration with various communities have been dropped; and hundreds of jobs have been eliminated.”
Video clips on the Internet
A number of major figures in Canadian cinema have agreed to give testimonials in support of the Film Board. In short video clips, each artist implores the Canadian government to support a strong, vibrant NFB. The video campaign will be publicized primarily on the Internet, in French and English (cupe.ca, scfp.ca and scfp.qc.ca).
Alanis Obomsawin and Benoit Pilon
On February 4, the first two video clips for the campaign will be circulated on the Internet.
In the first video, Alanis Obomsawin highlights the fact that the NFB is a place that genuinely allows “freedom of speech.” The NFB, she points out, was the first institution to give the country’s First Peoples a voice. For this outstanding filmmaker, “the NFB deserves respect from this country’s politicians and governments. […] It troubles me to see that the NFB is still being cut when there is still so much to be done.” Alanis Obomsawin is an exceptional and prolific documentary filmmaker. Her film Kanehsatake (1993) alone has garnered more than 18 awards worldwide.
In the second video clip, filmmaker Benoit Pilon recounts his first experiences at the Film Board. He tells how as a young student he was able, with the help of the NFB’s expertise and experience, to complete his first short film in professional conditions. “It was through the NFB and this first film that I felt like they were really treating me like a filmmaker, even though I was just a little beginner straight out of school.” For Pilon, the NFB is the “crown jewel of Canadian culture.” Two weeks ago, his first full-length feature film entitled Ce qu’il faut pour vivre (The Necessities of Life) was shortlisted for an Oscar. It narrowly missed being part of the final selection for an Oscar in the category of Best Foreign Language Film.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is proud to have employees of the National Film Board among its members. CUPE is Canada’s largest union, with more than 570,000 members working in education, libraries, the media, municipalities, day care, health care, transportation and energy.
For further information:
Serge Gaspard Gaudreau, spokesperson for unionized NFB employees: (514) 344-9399
Robert Bellerose, CUPE Communications: (514) 247-9266 (cell)