Shameless Propaganda

Poster for Shameless Propaganda

Autumn 2014 Special Presentations series

Wednesday, November 5, 2014 at 7:00pm

Acadia Cinema's Al Whittle Theatre
450 Main Street, Wolfville, NS

Directed by Robert Lower

Screenplay by Robert Lower

Starring Robert Lower

Rated NR · 1h 12m

Shameless Propaganda

On Wednesday, November 5, at 7 pm in the week of the Al Whittle Theatre’s 10th Anniversary,  the Fundy Film Society and the Acadia University Art Gallery have teamed up to present this NFB 75 birthday (2014) documentary, which compliments the Art Gallery’s fall exhibit “Consuming Conflict.”

This feature documentary examines its own genre, which has often been called Canada’s national art form. Released in the year of the NFB’s 75th birthday, Shameless Propaganda is filmmaker Robert Lower’s take on the boldest and most compelling propaganda effort in our history (1939-1945), in which founding NFB Commissioner John Grierson saw the documentary as a “hammer to shape society.” All 500 of the films produced by the NFB until 1945 are distilled here for the essence of their message to Canadians. Using only these films and still photos from that era, Lower recreates the picture of Canada they gave us and looks in it for the Canada we know today. What he finds is by turns enlightening, entertaining, and unexpectedly disturbing.

Robert Lower’s investigation into the roots of the National Film Board of Canada provides a revelatory look at this most august of institutions. Under the aegis of John Grierson, the first commissioner, the NFB was charged with interpreting Canada to Canadians. The wartime ethos of the NFB cannot be overlooked, and in some cases the jingoism of the times is startling. Keep your eyes peeled for a particularly freaky outing from animation great, Norman McLaren, in which a googly-eyed skull eavesdrops on unwary citizens sharing secrets they ought not to. Other examples are less bizarre, but just as disturbing, such as the film made about Japanese internment camps in the Slocan, quaintly dubbed “Relocation Districts.” Despite the socialist nature of the NFB (Grierson liked to say that he was an inch to the left of any government he worked for), casual racism and xenophobia were not uncommon. But despite a few dated missteps, many of the films that Robert Lower discovered retain an extraordinary beauty and power.

Robert Lower has been editing, writing and occasionally directing film for more than 40 years, largely in his native Winnipeg. Active with the NFB in the late 70s and 80s, he veered into drama for a decade before returning to documentaries in the late 90s. He has been going back and forth between the genres ever since. Recent documentary writing and editing credits include The Devil’s Brigade, Ballet Girls, Ballet High, 40 Years of One Night Stands, The Nature of Things – Mysteries of the Deep; and The Nature of Things – Surviving The Teenage Brain.