NFB makes films free online

The National Film Board of Canada has launched a new project to allow Canadians to see its films through online streaming.

$1.3M project to digitize the best of its films

The National Film Board of Canada has launched a new project to allow Canadians to see its films through online streaming.

Oscar winners such as 1952's Neighbours, 1977's I'll Find a Way and 2004's Ryan are among the more than 700 films now available for screening online at NFB.ca.

The online screening room was created as part of a $1.3-million project to digitize the NFB's collection of historic films.

"This is part of our ongoing response to the digital revolution," NFB chair Tom Perlmutter said in an online news conference on Wednesday.

The NFB, which restructured its film programs over the past 18 months to free up resources for the digital project, plans to put 10 new films a month online.

Classics such as Mon Oncle Antoine and Nobody Waved Goodbye are free for online screening, along with pioneering animation by Norman McLaren and animated films such as The Big Snit and The Cat Came Back.

A group of filmmakers and curators chose the first films to be made available from among the 15,000 productions made by the NFB, said Deborah Drisdell, director of strategic planning.

"We wanted to show the world our work — everything from our oldest films to the most contemporary and also to include films that represented all the regions of Canada and our cultural diversity," she said.

Whether a film was chosen also depended on the NFB owning the digital rights.

The NFB had new video player software created for its online screening room, Perlmutter said.

The site features a handful of recent films or films related to current affairs on its front page, but all films can be found by title or with a search by filmmaker.

Site serves as 'virtual church basement'

There are trailers of upcoming releases, as well as interviews with filmmakers and other experts who discuss NFB films and recommend a "playlist" of works that might interest viewers.

The site serves the same function as a community screening of an NFB film, Perlmutter said, referring to it as a "virtual church basement or school auditorium."

In the news conference, he stressed the NFB's history as a pioneer of new audiovisual techniques and forum for voices that would not otherwise  be heard.

"Many of these creators would never get a say and many works would never see the light of day without the help of the NFB," he said.

"We have a tremendous responsibility to dig deeper, push boundaries. We can and must do things that cannot be done by the private sector."

The site features films in both official languages and has special features for the hearing or visually impaired.

Perlmutter also urged the federal government to allocate money toward a digital strategy for Canada to keep up with the rest of the world. Britain, France and the Netherlands have all allocated money to preserve their films and make their collections available in digital format, he said.