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The Best Damn Fiddler from Calabogie to Kaladar

Year: 1968
Language: English
Format: 16mm Black & White
Runtime: 49 min
Director: Peter Pearson
Producer: Barrie Howells, John Kemeny
Writer: Joan Finnegan
Cinematographer: Tony Ianzelo
Editor: Michael McKennirey
Sound: Hans Oomes, Bernard Bordeleau, Robert Fleming
Cast: Kate Reid, Margot Kidder, Bill Thourlby, Paisley Maxwell, Paddy Moran, Chris Wiggins
Production Company: National Film Board of Canada

The Best Damn Fiddler from Calabogie to Kaladaris a realistic account of itinerant bush worker Emery Prometer (Chris Wiggins). Emery lives in the rural area of the Ottawa Valley and can’t make enough money to feed his large family, but nevertheless rejects government handouts. His tough self-reliance and hard-drinking lifestyle are viewed with compassion as his family ekes out an existence in a life of isolation and deprivation. His oldest daughter Rosie (Kidder) decides she must break the cycle of poverty by leaving home and getting an education and a job.

One of the best NFB films of the sixties, this sensitive docudrama uses professional actors and a dramatic script, yet captures astonishingly well the atmosphere of the Ottawa Valley and the dignity of one man and his family in the face of economic deprivation.

The film, which marked Kidder’s first screen appearance, was produced for CBC-TV as a pilot project in the (then-unnamed) Challenge for Change program. As Gerald Pratley has stated in A Century of Canadian Cinema, the film "is infused with a love of life, of children and of freedom within society, no matter how unfavourable the socio-economic terms.... A brilliant example of what our filmmakers could do if they had the opportunities and the material to replace the run-of-the-mill American films that dominate our theatres and television – the kind of inexpensive creativity private broadcasters continue to say they cannot afford."

The Best Damn Fiddler from Calabogie to Kaladar won eight Canadian Film Awards, including Best Picture (John Kemeny, Barrie Howells), Director (Peter Pearson), Cinematography (Tony Ianzelo), Screenplay (Joan Finnegan) and Lead Actor (Chris Wiggins).