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World premiere of Victoria-born filmmaker John Bolton’s new feature documentary, That Higher Level, about the National Youth Orchestra of Canada. 11 NFB docs and animated shorts featured at the 2019 Victoria Film Festival.


January 7, 2019 – Vancouver – National Film Board of Canada

The world premiere of Victoria-born filmmaker John Bolton’s feature documentary That Higher Level headlines a stellar selection of eleven National Film Board of Canada (NFB) documentary and animated films at the Victoria Film Festival (February 1–10, 2019).

That Higher Level follows musicians from the National Youth Orchestra of Canada—including one musician originally from Victoria. It joins another NFB feature doc with a connection to Vancouver Island in Love, Scott, Laura Marie Wayne’s portrait of Nanaimo-born musician Scott Jones and his journey of healing and transformation after a vicious homophobic attack.

Making its B.C. premiere at Victoria is Andrea Dorfman’s The Girls of Meru, about Kenyan girls leading a fight for justice, while Astra Taylor’s timely and provocative What Is Democracy? comes to the festival after a run at Vancouver’s Vancity Theatre last month.

NFB animation leads the way with the multi-award-winning Animal Behaviour from the Vancouver-based animation duo of Alison Snowden and David Fine—back at the NFB 25 years after their Academy Award-winning 1993 NFB/Snowden Fine Animation/Channel 4 co-pro Bob’s Birthday.

Albertine Zullo and David Toutevoix’s international animation co-production The Cannonball Woman (Hélium Films/Parmi les lucioles films/NFB) also will be in Victoria, along with Alex Boya’s Turbine, named Best Animation Short at the New York City Short Film Festival.

Four NFB works are also being featured as part of the festival’s 25th anniversary installation States of Play, February 2-10 at The Atrium, 800 Yates Street: Chris Landreth’s 2004 Oscar-winning animated short Ryan (Copper Heart Entertainment/NFB) and his acclaimed 2013 Subconscious Password; Philippe Baylaucq’s experimental dance film Ora (2011), winner of the Autodesk 3D Independent Short Film Competition; as well as Amanda Strong’s 40-second Hipster Headdress, part of the 2017 NFB’s Naked Island series of 14 super-short and incisive films.

About the films


That Higher Level, John Bolton (75 min)
February 9 | 6:15 p.m. | The Vic
Synopsis, biographies, images and credits: https://mediaspace.nfb.ca/epk/that-higher-level/

That Higher Level follows the 100 musicians who make up the National Youth Orchestra of Canada over the course of two months of training and touring across the country. Embedded with the orchestra throughout, filmmaker John Bolton weaves together footage that captures the essence of the training institute and, eventually, the journey and performances on tour.

That Higher Level is produced and executive produced by Shirley Vercruysse for the NFB’s B.C. and Yukon Studio, in association with the National Youth Orchestra of Canada. It’s the latest NFB production by Bolton, whose previous credits include the short doc Debris (2015), shot on Vancouver Island, as well as Michael J. Fox (2017), a film portrait produced for the former Vancouver native’s Governor General’s Performing Arts Award.

Love, Scott, Laura Marie Wayne (75 min)
February 4 | 6:00 p.m. | Parkside
February 6 | 9:15 p.m. | Cap 6
Synopsis, biographies, images and credits: https://mediaspace.nfb.ca/epk/lovescott/

While walking one night in small-town Nova Scotia, Nanaimo-born Scott Jones, a gay musician, is attacked by a stranger he encountered earlier that evening and becomes paralyzed from the waist down. What follows is a brave and fragile journey of healing and the transformation of this young man’s life. Directed by his close friend, Calgary-born Laura Marie Wayne, making her feature documentary debut, Love, Scott was filmed over three years, from Scott’s very first raw moments in the hospital to a trip back to the place he was attacked, as he’s faced with the choice of losing himself in grief or embracing love over fear.

Set against a stunning score by Sigur Rós, Love, Scott was named Best Canadian Feature (Narrative or Documentary) at the Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival and Best Feature Documentary at its U.S. premiere at the North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. International honours also include the Jury Prize for Best Documentary Film at the Uruguay International LGBTQ Film Festival as well as the award for Best Director (Documentary Film) for Wayne at LesGaiCineMad – Madrid International LGBTI Film Festival.

Love, Scott is produced and executive produced by Annette Clarke for the NFB’s Quebec and Atlantic Studio.

The Girls of Meru, Andrea Dorfman (88 min)
February 7 | 6:00 p.m. | Parkside
Synopsis, biographies, images and credits: https://mediaspace.nfb.ca/epk/the-girls-of-meru/

Halifax filmmaker Andrea Dorfman follows a remarkable collaboration over five years to tell the heartbreaking yet uplifting story of the girls of Meru and their brave steps toward meaningful equality for girls everywhere.

In Kenya, one in three girls will experience sexual violence before the age of 18, yet police investigations into the crime are the exception rather than the rule, leading to a culture of impunity around rape. But a courageous group of girls has helped set a legal precedent for child protection worldwide. In The Girls of Meru, a multinational team led by Canadian lawyer Fiona Sampson and Tumaini Shelter head Mercy Chidi Baidoo builds the case of 11 girls to pursue an unheard of legal tactic. They challenge the Kenyan government to uphold its highly praised constitution and to hold police accountable.

The Girls of Meru is produced and executive produced by Annette Clarke for the NFB’s Quebec and Atlantic Studio. It’s the third NFB film for Dorfman, whose 2010 animated documentary Flawed earned a News & Documentary Emmy nomination.

What Is Democracy?, Astra Taylor (107 min)
February 2 | 12:45 p.m. | Cap 6
Synopsis, biographies, images and credits: https://mediaspace.nfb.ca/epk/what-is-democracy/

If we want to live in democracy, we must first ask what the word even means. What Is Democracy? is an idiosyncratic, philosophical journey spanning millennia and continents: from ancient Athens’ groundbreaking experiment in self-government to capitalism’s roots in medieval Italy; from modern-day Greece grappling with financial collapse and a mounting refugee crisis to the United States reckoning with its racist past and the growing gap between rich and poor.

Celebrated theorists Silvia Federici, Cornel West, Wendy Brown, and Angela Davis are joined by trauma surgeons, activists, factory workers, asylum seekers, former prime ministers and others, in a film that connects past and present, the emotional and the intellectual, the personal and the political, to provoke critical dialogue about our future.

What Is Democracy? is produced by Lea Marin and executive produced by Anita Lee for the NFB’s Ontario Studio in Toronto. Taylor is a filmmaker, writer, and political organizer whose credits include the NFB documentary Examined Life (TIFF 2008) and Zizek! (TIFF 2005). She has a new book, Democracy May Not Exist, but We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone, forthcoming from Metropolitan Books in early 2019.

Animal Behaviour, Alison Snowden and David Fine (14 min)
Shorts: Beautiful Obsessions | February 4 | 8:00 p.m. | Parkside
Synopsis, biographies, images and credits: https://mediaspace.nfb.ca/epk/animal-behaviour/

Dealing with what comes naturally isn’t easy, especially for animals. In Animal Behaviour, five animals—including a leech who suffers from separation anxiety and a bird with guilt issues—meet regularly to discuss their inner angst in a group therapy session led by Dr. Clement, a canine psychotherapist. This hilarious yet emotional short deals with animal issues that are not unlike our own. Should we learn and adapt, or should others just accept our true nature?

Winner of eight awards to date, including the Grand Prix at Rio de Janeiro’s Anima Mundi festival and the Audience Choice Best Short Film Award at Cinéfest Sudbury, Animal Behaviour marks the return of wife-and-husband team Alison Snowden and David Fine to the NFB after Bob’s Birthday (1993), which inspired the acclaimed Comedy Central/Channel 4/Global TV series Bob and Margaret. The Snowden-Fine duo also received an Oscar nomination for the NFB short George and Rosemary (1987), as did Snowden’s student film Second Class Mail (1984).

Animal Behaviour is produced and executive produced by Michael Fukushima for the NFB’s English-language Animation Studio in Montreal.

The Cannonball Woman, Albertine Zullo and David Toutevoix (14 min)
Shorts: Eyes for You | February 7 | 9:00 p.m. | Parkside
Synopsis, biographies, images and credits: https://mediaspace.nfb.ca/epk/the-cannonball-woman/

In The Cannonball Woman, co-directed by Swiss illustrator Albertine Zullo and French cinematographer David Toutevoix, Madeleine and her husband travel from village to village, putting on a spectacular show in which she plays the role of a human cannonball. But the couple’s domestic life is less than spectacular: every day seems to unfold just like the one before it. One morning, Madeleine makes a decision that changes the course of their lives. Set in the colourful and eccentric world of the carny, this bittersweet stop-motion animated short examines universal questions about love and the test of time.

Winner of the Best Swiss Award at the Fantoche International Animation Film Festival, The Cannonball Woman is produced by Maral Mohammadian for the NFB. The executive producers are Claude Barras (Hélium Films), Jérôme Duc-Maugé (Parmi les lucioles Films) and Michael Fukushima (NFB). A Hélium Films, Parmi les lucioles Films and NFB production in co-production with RTS Radio-Télévision Suisse.

Turbine, Alex Boya (8 min)
Shorts: Eyes for You | February 7 | 9:00 p.m. | Parkside
Synopsis, biographies, images and credits: https://mediaspace.nfb.ca/epk/turbine/

A pilot crash-lands into his home. His face has been replaced by a turbine and he’s fallen in love with a ceiling fan. To save their marriage, his wife must take drastic action.

Named Best Animation Short at the 2018 New York City Short Film Festival, Turbine was produced by Jelena Popović and executive produced by Michael Fukushima for the NFB’s English Animation Studio in Montreal. Montreal filmmaker Alex Boya first worked with the NFB as part of the 10th edition of the NFB’s Hothouse apprenticeship program. Turbine is his first professional film.


Related Products

Electronic Press Kit | Images, trailers, synopsis: Animal Behaviour |  Love, Scott | That Higher Level | The Cannonball Woman | The Girls of Meru | Turbine | What Is Democracy?

Associated Links

Victoria Film Festival
National Youth Orchestra of Canada
Snowden Fine Animation
Channel 4
Hélium Films
Parmi les lucioles films
RTS Radio-Télévision Suisse

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.