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NFB’s roots in Atlantic Canada showcased with seven films at the Atlantic Film Festival. Halifax festival selection includes three world premieres, a Canadian and Atlantic debut – and two classic works.



August 10, 2016 – Halifax – National Film Board of Canada (NFB)

The National Film Board of Canada’s commitment to Atlantic Canadian stories is the focus of a special showcase at the Atlantic Film Festival, taking place in Halifax from September 15 to 22, 2016.

The festival will feature three NFB world premieres: the PEI documentary Bluefin, directed by John Hopkins; the Nova Scotia doc Mabel, directed by Teresa MacInnes; and Mystery of the Secret Room, an animated short directed by Newfoundland’s Wanda Nolan, with New Brunswick’s Claire Blanchet as art director.

Co-produced by Triplex Films and the NFB in association with Phi Films, Peter Svatek’s Theater of Life will be making its Canadian premiere. Making its Atlantic premiere will be HAND.LINE.COD., a film by Newfoundland director Justin Simms that revisits Fogo Island, almost 50 years after Colin Low’s legendary Challenge for Change films.

The NFB’s deep roots in Atlantic storytelling will also be showcased with two classics: Nova Scotia filmmaker Sylvia Hamilton’s landmark 1992 short documentary Speak It! From the Heart of Black Nova Scotia and Janice Platt’s 1985 Atlantis Films/NFB short drama The Trumpeter.

“From our studios in Halifax and Moncton, and a micro-office in St. John’s, the NFB works with creators and communities across Atlantic Canada to tell the stories and explore the issues that matter to Atlantic Canadians―and to share that richness with the rest of the country and the world. I want to thank the Atlantic Film Festival for celebrating the work of our talented artists and for all that they’ve done for Atlantic cinema and culture, each and every year,” said Claude Joli-Coeur, Government Film Commissioner and Chairperson of the NFB.

This selection of seven films from Atlantic Canada is just part of a larger lineup of NFB films at the festival, to be announced later.



Bluefin is a tale of epic stakes set in “the tuna capital of the world.” In North Lake, Prince Edward Island, filmmaker John Hopkins tries to shed light on a baffling mystery: normally wary bluefin tuna no longer fear humans, and no one is quite sure why. Astonished Island fishermen and scientists offer conflicting explanations for the bluefin’s puzzling behaviour. One thing is certain: this great resurgence of gigantic tuna flies in the face of scientific assessments claiming that endangered stocks are down by 90 percent. A passionate concern about the fate of the mercilessly hunted and valuable tuna lies at the heart of this documentary, a 53-minute film produced by Annette Clarke and Paul McNeill and executive produced by Ravida Din and Annette Clarke.


Mabel Robinson quietly broke barriers back in the 40s when she became the first woman in Hubbards, Nova Scotia, to launch her own business—a hairdressing salon where she still provides shampoo-n-sets over 70 years later, catering to a faithful but dwindling clientele. “They’re all dying on me, but I’m still going strong,” she observes with customary wry humour. An affectionate documentary portrait from the hand of Halifax director Teresa MacInnes, this 22-minute film weaves animation and archival imagery with intimate interview footage, exploring the power of community and friendship. Produced and executive produced by Annette Clarke.

Mystery of the Secret Room

A young girl’s journey of adversity through the power of imagination, this six-minute animated short is a spellbinding voyage between the real and the imaginary, in which Grace uses her creative superpowers to navigate the emotional landscape of her mother’s depression. Writer/filmmaker Wanda Nolan collaborates with animator Claire Blanchet to weave together a visually rich and moving story. Images of nature abound, serving to allegorize the obstacles faced by people dealing with mental illness and the loved ones who stand by their side. Ultimately an inspiring portrait of family, adversity, and resilience, Mystery of the Secret Room celebrates the transformative powers of literature and the imagination. The film is produced and executive produced by Annette Clarke.

Theater of Life

St. John’s chef Jeremy Charles joins 60 of the world’s best chefs from across Canada and around the world in Theater of Life, director Peter Svatek’s documentary about Refettorio Ambrosiano, an extraordinary soup kitchen conceived by Massimo Bottura during the Milan 2015 World’s Fair, in which waste food from the Expo was transformed into delicious and nutritious meals for Italy’s hungriest residents. A visual feast in itself, Theater of Life captures the remarkable relationship forged between the finest haute cuisine chefs in the world and the city’s most disadvantaged groups: refugees, recovering drug addicts, former sex workers, and a host of others with no place else to go. The 94-minute film was produced by Josette Gauthier (Triplex Films) and Annette Clarke (NFB), and is distributed by the NFB (Canada) and Seville International (international sales).


Set in the coldest waters surrounding Newfoundland’s rugged Fogo Island, Justin Simms’ 13-minute HAND.LINE.COD. follows a group of “people of the fish”—traditional fishers who catch cod live by hand, by hook and line, one at a time. Their secret mission? To drive up the price of fish. After a 20-year moratorium on North Atlantic cod, the stocks are returning. These fishers are leading a revolution in sustainability, taking their premium product directly to the commercial market for the first time. The film is dedicated to the memory of NFB film pioneer Colin Low, who shot 27 films in Fogo Island for Challenge for Change, developing a revolutionary way to use film as a tool to bring about social change and combat poverty. HAND.LINE.COD. is produced and executive produced for the NFB by Annette Clarke.

Speak It! From the Heart of Black Nova Scotia

Winner of the Rex Tasker Award for Best Atlantic Documentary at the Atlantic Film Festival in 1993, Sylvia Hamilton’s Speak It! From the Heart of Black Nova Scotia takes audiences inside a predominantly white high school, where a group of black students face daily reminders of the presence of racism, ranging from abuse to exclusion. They work to build pride and self-esteem through educational and cultural programs, and with help from mentors they learn how to affect change, in this half-hour documentary produced by Mike Mahoney. Awards also include the Multiculturalism Award at the Geminis―now the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television Diversity Award―for this landmark film that was broadcast on CBC Nova Scotia and TVOntario, and featured in community screenings across Canada.

The Trumpeter

Written and directed by Janice Platt, the 24-minute drama The Trumpeter is based on a short story by Thomas Raddall and set in the Nova Scotia of 1798. A young woman named Thankful Rogers is operating her father’s ferry across a small river when she learns that the Duke of Kent and his entourage are on their way and will want to use the ferry. The Duke’s visit leads to Thankful finding a husband for herself. The Trumpeter was produced by Andy Thomson (NFB) and Seaton McLean (Atlantis Films).


Associated Links

Atlantic Film Festival
Phi Films

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  • 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.