Prolific writer and filmmaker Jacques Godbout has added his voice to the urgent appeals to save the National Film Board, an institution unique in the world. In the video campaign launched by CUPE unions, Godbout characterizes the NFB as “an institution on the road to extinction.” In the same breath, he notes ironically that in Canada, “We excel at self-destruction and shooting ourselves in the foot.” Over the last 15 years, the NFB’s budgets have seen cuts or periods of stagnation, and its workforce, which translates into its ability to function, has been melting like spring snow.
In the short video, available on You Tube, cupe.ca and scfp.qc.ca, Jacques Godbout recalls that the NFB began as the expression of a philosophy, a place that made films reflecting Canada’s image and identity. “When you assemble a critical mass of creators, something is bound to happen,” notes this artist who has made more than 34 films. “It was a production house where people could work for the long term.”
Directors on the cutting room floor
That concept of permanent resources and competencies has been totally trashed, according to Serge Gaspard Gaudreau, president of the NFB unions. “Were you aware that since last summer, there are no longer any directors at the NFB? There are only freelancers, visitors who come in for a few months—the time it takes to do a project—and then are replaced. There is no longer a sense of roots or memory for directors. It’s a disaster. The transmission of knowledge in this profession has been completely abandoned. This loss of expertise could be irreversible if nothing is done to remedy the situation.”
Jacques Godbout is very clear on what is required: reinvestment. “We need money! But not billions. It wouldn’t take a tremendous increase in the NFB’s budget to make the institution worthwhile.” This celebrated artist sees the NFB as a truly original institution that —with a bit of political will—could be restored to its place as a model of creation and creativity.
Since it was founded in 1939, the NFB has produced more than 13,000 titles, won more than 5,000 awards, garnered more than 90 Genies, received over 70 Oscar nominations and landed 12 Oscars.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is proud to have the 260 NFB employees and technical staff among its members. With 7,000 members in communications in Quebec, CUPE is present in several other sectors, notably health and social services, education, urban and air transport, Quebec government corporations and public agencies, hydroelectric power and municipalities. With more than 105,000 members, CUPE is the biggest affiliate of the FTQ.
Information: Alexandre Boulerice