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The Education of Phyllistine

Year: 1963
Language: English
Format: 16mm Black & White
Runtime: 56 min
Director: Philip Keatley
Producer: Philip Keatley
Writer: Paul St. Pierre
Cinematographer: Kelly Duncan
Editor: John Fuller
Sound: Norm Rosen, Dick France, Walter Marsh
Music: Ricky Hyslop
Cast: Frank Crowson, Chief Abby, Chief George, Nancy Sandy, Marcia Belisle

This affecting drama was part of the popular Cariboo Country series produced in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Vancouver studio in the early sixties. The Education of Phyllistine follows a young, orphaned Native girl (Nancy Sandy) who is uprooted from her reserve and thrust into the alien world of an all-white school, simply so the school can qualify for a provincial grant.

An impressive achievement in its own right, the film is also an important early example of both the television docudrama form and the regional drama. In much the same way as the CBC Vancouver documentary style (e.g. Allan King’s Skidrow) influenced later CBC documentaries, so CBC Vancouver drama (especially the Cariboo Country series) was to prove a model for much of the CBC drama of the sixties.

The Education of Phyllistine – which marked the acting debut of Chief Dan George (in the role of Ol’ Antoine) – won numerous international awards and a Canadian Film Award as best film for television. The original two-part drama was repeated in a one-hour block on the CBC series Festival in 1967.