Good news for for all you film lovers unable—or too lazy—to make the arduous journey to the National Film Board of Canada’s Mediatheque in downtown Toronto: in honour of the organization’s seventieth anniversary, the NFB has released hundreds of new and classic titles through the free online screening room on its newly revamped website.
“I can’t think of a better gift to Canadians on our seventieth anniversary,” said chairperson Tom Perlmutter, adding that the online screening room is part of the NFB’s efforts to connect Canadians with their cultural heritage. “This is yours,” he said. “This is who we are.”
About seven hundred full-length films and trailers can be streamed free of charge using an open-source player developed specifically for the NFB, with more titles to be added each month. They can also be embedded or shared via social networking sites like Facebook.
The films currently available represent a small but important slice of the NFB’s expansive collection. Among the more notable titles are Arthur Lipsett’s experimental 21-87, which influenced a young George Lucas; the beloved animated short Log Driver’s Waltz (seen above); and new releases like Carts of Darkness, a feature-length documentary about a group of homeless bottle pickers who race shopping carts down steep hills as an extreme sport. By mid-year visitors will be able to access even more content, including Ryan, which won the Oscar for best animated short in 2004; and Mon oncle Antoine, considered by many to be the greatest Canadian feature film of all time.
The service has its share of early glitches—videos sometimes stop working for no apparent reason and the search function leaves much to be desired—but Perlmutter is confident that as time goes on it will continue to improve. The NFB is also planning new ways to bring its collection to more Canadians, including access through iPhones and other mobile devices, and improved accessibility for people with hearing and visual impairments. “This is a work in progress,” said Perlmutter, “as much as the NFB itself is.”