Two Canadian film bodies have joined together in a program to teach accomplished Canadian directors how to make great documentaries. The Canadian Film Centre and the National Film Board have announced that filmmakers Yung Chang, Sarah Polley, Shelley Saywell and John Walker (pictured) will be the first to participate in the inaugural CFC/NFB Feature Documentary Program.
The program will be led by program manager Jerry McIntosh, whose resumes lists directing and executive producing for CBC and CBC Newsworld. McIntosh is thrilled with the creation of the program and the filmmakers selected.
‘It’s the brainchild of Slawko Klymkiw [CFC executive director] and Tom Perlmutter [NFB's government film commissioner and chairperson]. They’ve watched the evolution of the documentary form and seen the transition from primarily a broadcast distribution and observed that there was less and less of documentary on broadcast, that the classic form was changing,’ says McIntosh. ‘They wanted to inspire cinematic documentary as a way to continue to develop the art form as well as the reach.’
As for the selections, McIntosh says, ‘They are the foremost filmmakers of any stripe.’
Yung Chung, hot off the success of Up the Yangtze, will be working on The Fruit Hunters, which will explore the fruit underworld. Sarah Polley will transition from her hit feature film Away From Her to the documentary The Stories We Tell, about memory and storytelling. Shelley Saywell, best known for Crimes of Honour, will be tackling Ghost Dance, a rock and roll film that searches for the meaning of an ancient aboriginal prophecy. Coming off the success of Passage, John Walker’s film will be Seven Wonders, which follows seven of the world’s master drummers as they teach their secrets to 40 international students.
These four filmmakers were selected out of 53 proposals that were sent in after an open invitation by the CFC/NFB. An independent jury comprised of a filmmaker, a producer, a distributor and representatives of both the CFC and the NFB made the decision for the four.
Although the program runs from January to June 2009, the group has already completed a first session on Tuesday, and McIntosh is confident they made the right decision. Oscar-nominated documentary director, Larry Weinstein, will act as senior creative counselor, and the filmmakers will receive an intense immersion into documentary filmmaking. The end result is a hope that at least one of the films will find distribution and be released cinematically.