The Canadian National Film Board

The official logo of the NFB.

The National Film Board of Canada (or NFB) is Canada's public film producer and distributor. As an agency of the Government of Canada, the NFB produces and distributes documentary, animation, drama and digital media productions. Founded in 1939 the NFB has produced more than 13,000 films and has earned over 5,000 awards including 12 Academy Awards.

In 1939 the Canadian Government invited John Grierson, a Scotland born film producer, to analyze the state of films produced by the government. Up until that point, the Canadian Government Motion Picture Bureau (established in 1918) had been the main producer of films in Canada. His report was included in the National Film Act in 1939, which eventually led to the creation of the NFB. Later that year Grierson was named the first film commissioner of the Board, thus beginning it’s long history.

John Grierson, the first film commissioner of the NFB.

In its early years, the NFB was created to promote propaganda for WWII in Canada. Under the guidance of Mr. Grierson, two morale boosting series were released, “Canada Carries On” and “The World in Action”, which were shown monthly in Canadian theatres. Over time the Board gained the public’s approval and by 1945 the NFB was one of the largest film studios in the world with a staff of over 780 people.

The National Film Board gained critical acclaim towards its animation department due largely to the efforts of Norman McLaren. McLaren, like Grierson, was born in Scotland and was deeply involved with animated films. By invitation of Grierson he moved to Canada in 1941 and joined the NFB, producing his own films as well as training Canadian amateurs. He was an extremely innovative animation filmmaker, using such techniques as scratching drawings directly on filmstrips, painting on filmstrips, and cutout animation, just to name a few. McLaren’s most famous film by far is the animated short “Neighbors”. Created in 1952 it was critically acclaimed and won the 1952 Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject.

Norman Mclaren, hard at work drawing pictures on film.

Today the Board is still going strong, though it’s presence in the film industry has diminished quite a bit, due largely to the appearance of other film and television studios (Hollywood being immediately recognizable) and increasing price cuts since the 1960’s. These include in 1996, when the NFB had to except a 32% cut to its operating budget, forcing it to lay off numerous staff and close its film lab. But through all these hardships, the NFB has kept its ideals and continues to make quality films. It will always be remembered as helping shape Canada’s cultural identity and proving to the world that we are a country filled with talented filmmakers, who are willing to go the extra mile to accomplish their goals.