Filming Politics: Communism and the Portrayal of the Working Class at the National Film Board of Canada, 1939-46
The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) has a storied history as the progenitor and stalwart defender of Canadian cinematic culture. It was created to foster a national film industry and to promote to a national and international audience a voice that was uniquely Canadian. In "Filming Politics", author Malek Khouri examines carefully a period at the National Film Board when its creative output and guiding principles reflected less the cultural mainstream, identifying instead more with the surging wave of International Communism. Beginning with an analysis of the political, cultural, and social milieu under which the institution was founded, Khouri highlights how these dynamics impacted the creation of the NFB. He details the ideological background of the NFB's founders and filmmakers, positing that these factors ultimately shaped the emergence of a counter-hegemonic discourse as evidenced through the portrayal of the working class. Khouri identifies and uncovers the extent of the institution's filmic practices and representations of issues such as the Great Depression, democracy, labour unions, unemployment, and the fight against Fascism. In particular, it was during the war years that the institution earnestly pursued a discourse that presented the working class as agents of social change, and openly celebrated the Soviet Union as a war ally and leading opponent to fascism, and in due course as a future partner in peace. "Filming Politics" presents a vivid ethnography of a social class, a cultural institution, and a political subculture, making available for the first time a comprehensive classification and overview of the cinematic and political foundations that informed this now esteemed cultural institution.
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