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NFB marks World Press Freedom Day on May 3 with theatrical release of Santiago Bertolino’s Freelancer on the Front Lines in Montreal and Quebec City


April 13, 2017 – Montreal – National Film Board of Canada (NFB)

Santiago Bertolino’s feature documentary Freelancer on the Front Lines (Un journaliste au front), produced by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), is coming to the Cinémathèque québécoise in Montreal and the Cinéma Le Clap in Quebec City as of May 3. The film tracks Canadian reporter Jesse Rosenfeld—a McGill University graduate—through Egypt, Israel, Palestine and Iraq, showing the complex world of a freelance journalist working in warzones. Given its gripping exploration of a new brand of frantic news-gathering that seeks to distance itself from the mass media, the documentary is a fitting tribute to World Press Freedom Day on May 3. Combining interviews with Rosenfeld, field reporting, articles, and archival documents culled from the media, Freelancer on the Front Lines presents a multi-faceted look at this emerging form of journalism for the digital age. In doing so, the film also provides an insider’s look at the importance of independent and critical news coverage in a media landscape that often tends toward convergence.

Produced at the NFB by Nathalie Cloutier and Denis McCready with executive producer Colette Loumède, Freelancer on the Front Lines had its world premiere as the closing film at the Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM). It has been presented at the Festival cinéma du monde de Sherbrooke (FCMS) and will be screened next month at the Vancouver DOXA Documentary Film Festival.

After Red Square on a Blackboard (2013, co-directed with Hugo Samson), which deals with the 2012 student uprisings in Quebec, Bertolino shifted his focus to major international social issues. A politically engaged artist and filmmaker, Bertolino follows in the footsteps of his father, acclaimed documentary filmmaker Daniel Bertolino (2013 Guy Mauffette Award), whose production company Via le Monde is currently celebrating 50 years of work across five continents. Bertolino has had a keen interest in independent journalism and passionately explored social struggles and their impact on society for over 15 years. In 2004, he began contributing to the NFB-produced Parole citoyenne/CitizenShift, a website that addressed a variety of social issues. In 2009, a year after the Israeli bombing of Gaza, he became a filmmaker-reporter with a number of Quebec delegations that went to Palestine. He was also on the Canadian boat that was part of the Freedom Flotilla, where he met Jesse Rosenfeld, who became the protagonist of Freelancer on the Front Lines. Bertolino has always sought to gain unique behind-the-scenes access in order to reveal day-to-day realities through inside accounts.

Quick Facts

About Freelancer on the Front Lines (98 min)

(English, some dialogue in Arabic and Kurdish with French subtitles)

Produced at the NFB by Nathalie Cloutier and Denis McCready with executive producer Colette Loumède.

Jesse Rosenfeld, a Canadian freelance reporter from Toronto and a McGill University graduate, has made the Middle East the focus of his work. Freelancer on the Front Lines follows his journey across the region, showing us thorny geopolitical realities shaped by historical events and exploring how journalism practices have changed in the age of the Internet. Whether covering the dashed hopes of the Egyptian revolution, the upheavals in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the reality of refugee camps in Turkey, or the progress of Kurdish fighters against the armed militants of the Islamic State group in Iraq, Rosenfeld is on a mission to make his readers aware of the issues on the ground. But to make the front page, he must set himself apart from traditional mass media and take a stand. With the thrilling pace of an action film, the documentary captures the ups and downs of a new and unconventional kind of journalism.

About the filmmaker

  • Santiago Bertolino is an independent director-screenwriter and web video journalist. Inspired by the direct cinema movement, this socially engaged filmmaker is a keen observer of social and political struggles that bring to light the major issues of the day.
  • As early as his first few films, Les illusions du libre-échange, co-directed with Sylvain Bédard (2001), La crise du café (2002) and Nuevo Horizonte (2005), he began questioning the images produced by mass media. How Quebec society is evolving is central to his concerns, as evidenced by several of his web projects (Actualité citoyenne and Trucs et astuces de la vidéo citoyenne).
  • In 2013, Bertolino teamed up with Hugo Samson to direct Red Square on a Blackboard, a documentary on the 2012 “maple spring” student demonstrations demanding free tuition in Quebec. The film won two Gémeaux awards in 2014 (best social documentary and best documentary script).
  • In 2014, he co-wrote Pipelines, Power and Democracy with the film’s director, Olivier D. Asselin.
  • A global citizen, Bertolino is deeply interested in conflicts in the Middle East (La marche pour la libération de Gaza ou le tourbillon égyptien and Seules, les pierres n’arrêteront pas l’occupation, co-directed with Steve Patry).


Associated Links

Cinémathèque québécoise
Cinéma Le Clap

Media Relations

  • About the NFB

    Founded in 1939, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is a one-of-a-kind producer, co-producer and distributor of distinctive, engaging, relevant and innovative documentary and animated films. As a talent incubator, it is one of the world’s leading creative centres. The NFB has enabled Canadians to tell and hear each other’s stories for over eight decades, and its films are a reliable and accessible educational resource. The NFB is also recognized around the world for its expertise in preservation and conservation, and for its rich and vibrant collection of works, which form a pillar of Canada’s cultural heritage. To date, the NFB has produced more than 14,000 works, 6,500 of which can be streamed free of charge at nfb.ca. The NFB and its productions and co-productions have earned over 7,000 awards, including 11 Oscars and an Honorary Academy Award for overall excellence in cinema.