Documentary Ontario celebrates silver anniversary

The NFB marked the 25th anniversary of its Toronto-based production company - Documentary Ontario - with a sneak peek at the studio's up-and-coming projects.
May 31, 2001

This week, the NFB showcased a selection of clips from 65 new productions, including Documentary Ontario’s 11 new doc projects. The line-up included six feature-length titles, four hour-long programs for television broadcast, and one six-minute montage.

‘I’m extremely proud of the projects we’re releasing this year,’ said NFB executive producer Louise Lore. ‘While the subjects of the films are varied, they share a commitment to excellence and to telling their stories with integrity. Their quality is a testament to the talent and vibrancy of Toronto’s filmmaking community and to the four producers working in this studio.’ Documentary Ontario’s staff producers: Karen King-Chigbo, Silva Basmajian, Peter Starr and Gerry Flahive, presented this year’s slate.

After announcing she had just renewed four-year broadcast contracts with Vision Television and CBC Newsworld, Documentary Ontario’s cultural diversity producer Karen King-Chigbo talked docs. ‘We want to take stories from the multicultural community to the public,’ she said. Perhaps this mandate was her motive for producing Bollywood Bound (Nisha Pahuja), a feature-length doc that follows in the footsteps of two aspiring South Asian actors who venture to Bombay in search of stardom. King-Chigbo is also producing Film Club, an hour-long doc in which filmmaker Cyrus Sundar Singh revisits his public school Film Club-mates after25 years, to re-open a childhood discussion on what it means to be Canadian. Film Club was presold to CBC Newsworld and Vision Television; both docs will launch this fall. The Travellers (Robert Cohen) tells the story of the Canadian musical group by the same name, that achieved international fame for their adaptation of This Land is Your Land. The 95-minute film premiered on April 28 at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival, and was presold to History Television.

Producer Silva Basmajian is in the works with several new projects: Chuvalo vs. Ali (Joe Blasioli) is an historical film that tells the story of The Battle of Toronto, a boxing match between George Chuvalo and Muhammed Ali, in March 1966. The 90-minute film will debut on CBC-TV in the fall. OCD: The War Inside (Mark Pancer and David Hoffert) is a one-hour doc examining Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In Poverty, Chastity, Obedience (Cornelia Principe) the director follows the story of a woman who decides to become a nun. The one-hour copro with PCO Films has been presold to TVO, with a release date in the fall. The final film on Basmajian’s slate is Ski Bums (John Zaritsky), an 80-minute one-off depicting life on the hills of Whistler and Blackcomb.

Peter Starr has two projects on the go: Daniel Sekulich’s Aftermath: The Remnants of War travels the world to chronicle the residual effects of war (including chemicals, toxins, land mines and unexploded artillery) on human populations. The 75-minute copro between the NFB, Aftermath Pictures Inc., and Storyline Entertainment, presold to History Television for release in the fall. Starr is also producing Creative Canada, a 6-minute musical montage directed by Curtis Wehrfritz, and produced with the collaboration of the Government of Canada.

Last but not least, producer Gerry Flahive is in production with McLuhan’s Wake (Kevin McMahon and Kristina McLaughlin), a film that strives to explain the meaning of McLuhan’s message. The feature-length copro between the NFB and Primitive Entertainment Inc., McLuhan’s Wake will debut on TVO, Bravo, The Knowledge Network and SCN in spring 2002. Says Flahive, ‘I think it’s the film that finally explains what McLuhan was talking about.’ Finally, Shinny (David Battistella) is a one-hour one-off that uses hockey to define Canadian identity. ‘It’s not really a sports story; it’s really about what makes us Canadian,’ says Flahive. Currently in the editing room, Shinny will be ready for release in the fall.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.