Return to tiff.’s home page

Canadian Film Encyclopedia

Shopping Cart

Faces of Canada

(Silhouettes canadiannes)

Year: 1952
Language: English and French
Format: 16mm Black & White
Runtime: 10 min Production Company: National Film Board of Canada

This innovative series of portrait documentaries was originally developed under Film Commissioner Arthur Irwin. Many of the films, which were directed by both anglophone and francophone filmmakers, are clear precursors of direct cinema and the films of Unit B. Their approach is generally more intimate than the traditional documentary and avoids large social themes in favour of individual character study. The films largely abandoned the omniscient narrator, allowing the subject to speak in voice-over, either directly (as in Dick Hickey, Blacksmith) or via an actor (as in Paul Tomkowicz: Street Railway Switchman and The Charwoman). This latter film somewhat curiously uses a male voice to speak for the female central character.

The films were all low-budget productions and were mostly made by younger, less experienced directors. Of special interest are Raymond Garceau’s Le Bedeau, Roman Kroitor’s Paul Tomkowicz: Street Railway Switchman (which was a key influence on the Candid Eye films) and Bernard Devlin’s Le Notaire, Montreur de marionettes and Le Professeur de musique. Colin Low’s Corral (1954) was originally intended for release in this series, but was released as part of Canada Carries Oninstead. Garceau’s Monsieur le maire (1953) was not a part of Faces of Canada, but is similar in style to the films in this series.

By: Peter Morris