ForeverMissed
Our Billy

The warmth of his smile, the sparkle in his eye, his keen mind, sharp whit, voracious curiosity and most of all his relentless pursuit of happiness and joy.

Bill loved life and the people he shared it with.   He connected fully and intensely with whatever he was doing, a canoe trip, making a film, sharing a story with dear friends,  playing with his grandchildren, or starting a stand-up comedy routine at the age of 70! he brought his full self to everything he did. Bill was an amazing story teller and a prolific and award winning documentary producer.   His work embodied the spirit of selfless social activism and camaraderie that began at the NFB during the days of Challenge for Change

He didn't care about stuff much, material things were not of interest, he relished good content and intellectual rigour.  But most importantly he loved people,  deeply, authentically and fully for who they were.  He loved his friends and his family, his brothers,  cousins, nieces, nephews and their partners, his children and their mothers; he was delighted in his grandchildren Charlie and James.  And of course, the love of his life who he called "My Jane".

The family has set up a fund to honour his legacy, donations can be made in his name to C4C Canada through Canada helps.  https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/t/58378

Posted by Pat Phillips on January 25, 2021
Just keep reading all the tributes over the days and makes me smile at this wonderful man. Love to Bill.
Posted by Karen Brown on January 24, 2021
Bill pops into our minds at all times of day. There are so many memories and adventures that we have been re-visiting in our minds: driving along the Canadian highway in conversation, paddling for hours and hours into the wind until we were all exhausted, the early morning dawn when we found that a bear had swum to the island where we were camping, taken our rucksack and eaten all our food, swimming with Myrtle the moss backed snapper turtle who we subsequently discovered can bite an arm off.

Watching the History Plays at Stratford, going to Jane and Bill’s wonderful party at Greenend Road, only to discover that the party was really a belated reception for their secret wedding, meeting Bill’s dear family and friends in Toronto and in the UK, birthdays, conviviality, conversation and fine dining at La Bonne. 

There is so much great companionship, and laughter and friendship and adventure to celebrate - all thanks to you and Jane.

This is what he wrote for the book of our canoe trip, with him, Jane, John and me, in Quetico in 2013. I find it beautiful and also I want Bill to have the last word because he would like that.

“Canoe trips are always my perspective re-balancers, and this one more than most. The incident of falling, going into shock and falling into hypothermia, put me back in touch with my own vulnerability, even fragility, beautifully countered by the loving, healing care of friends, loved ones.

The final night, a clear, star-filled night overhead, the Milky Way actually dense with milkiness, I felt dizzy, standing on this small rock earth, speeding through space. Dizziness aided by one swallow too many of Irish Whiskey.

The awe felt that night was enhanced back home by a morning visit altogether to Greenwich to attend the Cosmos exhibit. Felt overwhelmed by the true immensity of the universe, the Time-Space immensity with no boundaries, perhaps
no beginning, no ending, just events.”

With all our love, Karen and John
Posted by Sam Younger on January 22, 2021
I can’t think of Bill without smiling - he was so full of warmth and humanity, a twinkle always in his eye and never at a loss for something to say that was interesting or amusing or more often both. I remember him saying at one of his stand-up gigs that he always wanted to be centre of attention. Maybe so, but what made him such a rewarding companion was also the genuineness of his interest in others. Serious or light-hearted, he was always a pleasure to be with. Annie joins me in sending much love to Jane and all the family.
Posted by Caro Millington on January 20, 2021
It seems only yesterday that Jane first introduced us to Bill. So many memories. Driving with Bill to Stratford on Avon while he raised £100,000 on the phone to fund his latest project - so laid back and relaxed: we were in awe! The first big group of friends meeting in La Bonne to celebrate his birthday - and then annually ever since - playing ping pong in the garden there. Visits to obscure parts of London to see Bill the stand-up comedian. And most recently relishing the sight of Bill throwing himself into dancing Scottish reels in Orkney. So many years of enjoyment. But most of all being part of Jane and Bill’s loving relationship. We miss him.
Caro and Michael.
Posted by Becky Rea on January 18, 2021
We didn’t know Bill for long but we are so grateful we knew him for as long as we did. To share tapas, home-cooking, stories, opinions and laughter, was a privilege. What a deeply good man. Our heart breaks for you Jane and we send our love and condolences to all of Bills family.
With all our love,
Stephen and Becky Rea
Posted by sara harrity on January 17, 2021
We came across Bill and Jane relatively late in our lives, and were delighted to realise through our friendship with them that very good friends can be made at any time in your life. We loved the conversations we had when we met up, and we always left wanting more. Bill and Jane became a regular and treasured part of our lives. Bill was a very generous soul, funny, warm, perceptive and we always particular enjoyed his telling stories about his own family. We also loved hearing the stories about their canoeing trips, film festivals and all the other expeditions. We will miss Bill a lot, and count ourselves lucky to have known him and enjoyed his friendship for as long as we did. 
Posted by Krista Skalde on January 16, 2021
I feel fortunate to have known this wonderful man named Bill Nemtin!!! His energy, his passion, his kindness and his big, beautiful smile! We should all take solace in the fact that there is another ray of sunshine that has been added above, shining down on us, keeping our hearts and spirits warm!

My most sincere condolences to Andrea, Jessica, Tito, Jane, Joan and Heather.
Posted by Mahlon Meyer on January 14, 2021
I knew Bill since I was a child. I remember going to his movie theater in Canada. Of all my father's friends, he was one of the kindest and most sensitive in supporting me. I always admired the projects he undertook. I remember one on Big Blue, the supercomputer. He was always a constant, loving presence in my life. I only learned later about the kind of Jewish upbringing he had had, and when I was going through a tough time, he connected with me on that level, as well. I'm really sorry he's gone. He was always so good-spirited and courageous. Also, sometimes, you never knew when he was being funny or not. He had this kind of wit. He once said of my father, "he is probably the cleanest person I have ever known." It is both true, serious and funny at the same time. I trust his humor, lovingness and kindness will live on in his kids and in his wife.
Posted by Brent Reid on January 14, 2021
I knew Bill for a few years when he was in Vancouver in the 1970s. The highlight was helping him run an NFB summer workshop at UBC which he entitled "Canadian Immersion--For Canadians." (The need was great because back then many of our fellow citizens thought Robert Frost was Canada's greatest poet).

Bill was great fun to work with (unless you were a hidebound NFB regional manager). One of our students was Eleanor Wachtel, who had just finished her studies at McGill and was about to start the career at CBC Radio which eventually bestowed the gift of "Writers and Company" upon our country. Watching as Bill and Eleanor bartered knowledge of visual media for insights into literature was a rich experience for everyone lucky enough to be there.

I remember the Nemtins' gorgeous old house in Kitsilano, and his delightful interactions with his daughter, Andrea. I also enjoyed his sense of humour, especially his stories from his time on Fogo Island. Bill was never bored, never boring, and damn near always smiling.
Posted by Mark Starowicz on January 14, 2021
My deepest condolences to Andrea, Jane and Bill's whole family. I was deeply saddened when I heard of his passing. We worked together on several co-productions for CBC documentaries. He was also a mentor to me , introduced me to many documentary producers and editors in Europe, and guided me through the intricacies of independent production. We would always share a beer and bowl of peanuts in the same hole-in-the-wall cafe in Cannes during the festival, and had many delightful dinners in London, where his jovial wit and his stories regaled us all. I shall always remember him fondly as a friend, and as a wise, gentle man. Mark Starowicz
Posted by Sayedali Rawji on January 14, 2021
I was very saddened to learn that Bill had passed away. I met Bill while I was at the NFB. I have wonderful memories of our conversations. His smile and good nature were infectious and he had the ability to connect with everyone he met. A true gentleman.
Andrea, please accept my most sincere condolences and I pray that his soul rest in eternal peace.
Sayedali Rawji
Posted by Angie Kaye on January 13, 2021
I have many happy memories of Bill. All infused with his intelligence and wit that to this day we recount and makes us laugh. Bill was with me on my first canoe trip, and his good humour and joy inspired me to make this a favourite hobby of my own.
I met him first as a film maker and then as a friend through Jane and his family in Canada. We played tennis, we laughed and I always found his "take"on life insightful, wry and illuminating.
To say he will be missed is an understatement - he is irreplaceable.
Posted by Paul Neuburg on January 12, 2021
The great thing to me about Bill was his love of life, and the profound way in which he and Jane had found each other to share its enjoyment. From kayaking in the wilderness of north-west Canada or down Baja California to a weekend in Bilbao to visit the Guggenheim and feast on the gourmet cooking of San Sebastian, from dashing up to see a Shakespeare production in Stratford to hopping across to Paris for the French Open, from an avid immersion in books to his passion for films old and new, from his pride in and love for his family to his open-hearted and fond embrace of friends, and above all in how he treasured Jane, Bill glowed in a way all of us will miss and none of us will ever forget.
Posted by michael wineberg on January 11, 2021
I've always loved all the Nemtin brothers, since our days in Young Judaea and Camp Shalom. At Stuie's bar mitzvah, I was often mistaken for one of the brothers! Steve is my best friend, Stu a pal, Howie a great guy, and Bill I remember as so funny and smart with a great laugh and smile, a really caring human being. My sincere condolences to all his loved one. Yisgadal, v'yiskadash... Love ‍♂️
Posted by Adina Meyer on January 10, 2021
I first met Bill when I was a toddler. He was my dad's best friend, and like an uncle to me. I remember dancing with him at my dad and Susan's wedding. I remember the bromance road trip he and my dad took up to Canada. He was the gentlest man I knew. His stand up comedy routine inspired me to take a stand up class myself. He loved his family so much and I loved being able to get to know Tito during our visits. Sending love to Jane - we will hold you and Bill in our hearts.
Posted by John Blake on January 10, 2021
Well done Bill. A great life, richly lived, much loved. Indefatigable paddler, portager, cheer-raiser, wild-camper and dogged Scrabbler in Quetico and Algonquin. You always knew how best to be comfortable in difficult circumstances, and uncomplainingly brave when the going got tough, whether at work or play - a very rare and happy gift. Thank you for expanding our horizons and for sharing so much fun together. 
With so many happy memories, and love. John.  
Posted by Jennifer Abramsky on January 10, 2021
I remember the moment Jane rang to say she had met someone who was the most special person she had ever encountered. She sounded radiant and overwhelmed. So began the most devoted love between two people I have ever known. Bill came into our lives with his gorgeous smile and warm hug. We found, that despite growing up on different continents , our Jewish upbringing was almost identical. The same songs, the same swear words, the same jokes.

I still remember, as we were battered in an open zodiac, pounding the seas off the Washington peninsula, looking for orcas, Bill leaning over and whispering in my ear “ this isn’t doing my kishkas any good”! 

For years we did an annual pilgrimage to explore Spain and going on Tapas crawls, or laughing at Al’s devotion to satnavs Bill was just a joy to be with.

His standup , in a pub in north London was a triumph. My children brought their friends and they couldn’t believe a seventy year old was daring to say those things! A tour de force.

Our last holiday was to Orkney. And seeing Bill try to dance an 8 some reel was as hilarious as it sounds. A joyous, man of such integrity and ethical strength. A privilege to have such a friend.
Posted by brenda goldstein on January 10, 2021
I have a special place in my heart for Billy...from our very early days in Trenton where we lived across from each other to our high school days when I taught him how to jive and he taught me about shemeshkes! Billy's all-encompassing love of life, his great laugh and his caring relationship with friends and family knew no bounds. I will miss this very special man...My heartfelt condolences to Howie, Stevie, Stuart and all Billy's Family.
Posted by Eve Salomon on January 10, 2021
Bill was a North American Jew. Now, for North Americans, that’s no big deal, but when you’re living in England, it’s something pretty different, and special. Or at least it was with Bill. He was thrilled to find in me another one of this rare species and we became allies; we’d share our portfolio of Jewish jokes (I exhausted my supply; his never ran out), he’d teach me rare Yiddish words I’d not come across, and of course we’d get nostalgic about Jewish foods, especially those that are particularly bad for you. I was an avid listener to all of Bill’s stories of his Jewish childhood, reminding me of almost my childhood, and I’d share mine knowing that we both understood the stories at a level that no Gentile could ever understand, as behind each incident lay generations of Jewish pride and suffering that added layers of meaning.

And this is how Bill became my ally, as well as my friend. He always agreed with me when I felt wronged, sometimes with more vehemence and anger than I felt myself. And it felt so good to know that this man whose heart was bigger than the universe was on my side.

When I think of Bill, I see the smile that curled the sides of his mouth and went up beyond his eyes so that the light just poured out. To receive that smile was a blessing, and I am blessed to have known and loved him for he lit up the world.
Posted by Stephen Whittle on January 10, 2021
Every picture tells a story. The delight on Bill’s face as he enjoys both his children and grandchildren reveals how much he loves them. He loved life. He enjoyed his family and his friends and he was an adventurer who remained up for a challenge right to the end.

Bill was a storyteller, a raconteur, and a stand up comic. He was also a man of passion who used film to make us aware of others realities and struggles as well as tell the tales of other adventurers. He was naturally curious and interested way beyond his immediate environment or history. He read widely and deeply and that enhanced both his story telling and his comedy. His laughter and wit were something to treasure.

But, above all, Bill was a lover and Jane was his great love. What adventures they shared and how much they gave each other.

His friendship was a special gift shared in walks, or over a dinner table, or in museums and theatres, and in conversation that provided a great sense of well-being and companionship.

He lives on in our hearts.

Leave a Tribute

 
Recent Tributes
Posted by Pat Phillips on January 25, 2021
Just keep reading all the tributes over the days and makes me smile at this wonderful man. Love to Bill.
Posted by Karen Brown on January 24, 2021
Bill pops into our minds at all times of day. There are so many memories and adventures that we have been re-visiting in our minds: driving along the Canadian highway in conversation, paddling for hours and hours into the wind until we were all exhausted, the early morning dawn when we found that a bear had swum to the island where we were camping, taken our rucksack and eaten all our food, swimming with Myrtle the moss backed snapper turtle who we subsequently discovered can bite an arm off.

Watching the History Plays at Stratford, going to Jane and Bill’s wonderful party at Greenend Road, only to discover that the party was really a belated reception for their secret wedding, meeting Bill’s dear family and friends in Toronto and in the UK, birthdays, conviviality, conversation and fine dining at La Bonne. 

There is so much great companionship, and laughter and friendship and adventure to celebrate - all thanks to you and Jane.

This is what he wrote for the book of our canoe trip, with him, Jane, John and me, in Quetico in 2013. I find it beautiful and also I want Bill to have the last word because he would like that.

“Canoe trips are always my perspective re-balancers, and this one more than most. The incident of falling, going into shock and falling into hypothermia, put me back in touch with my own vulnerability, even fragility, beautifully countered by the loving, healing care of friends, loved ones.

The final night, a clear, star-filled night overhead, the Milky Way actually dense with milkiness, I felt dizzy, standing on this small rock earth, speeding through space. Dizziness aided by one swallow too many of Irish Whiskey.

The awe felt that night was enhanced back home by a morning visit altogether to Greenwich to attend the Cosmos exhibit. Felt overwhelmed by the true immensity of the universe, the Time-Space immensity with no boundaries, perhaps
no beginning, no ending, just events.”

With all our love, Karen and John
Posted by Sam Younger on January 22, 2021
I can’t think of Bill without smiling - he was so full of warmth and humanity, a twinkle always in his eye and never at a loss for something to say that was interesting or amusing or more often both. I remember him saying at one of his stand-up gigs that he always wanted to be centre of attention. Maybe so, but what made him such a rewarding companion was also the genuineness of his interest in others. Serious or light-hearted, he was always a pleasure to be with. Annie joins me in sending much love to Jane and all the family.
his Life

A prolific producer

Bill was an amazing storyteller and a prolific and award-winning documentary producer. His work embodied the spirit of selfless social activism and camaraderie that began at the NFB during the days of Challenge for Change, where he worked on landmark projects including a number of films for the Fogo process, with Colin Low, and the recently re-discovered Loon Lake - the first Cree language film made by the first all-Indigenous production unit in Canada.

He worked for many years for US PBS stations in Canada and in London setting up international co-productions, and produced a number of award winning documentaries including The Hand of Stalin, The War of 1812, and most recently, Passage.

Dad

Jessie, Tito and I  each had unique and wonderful relationships with our Dad. 

We shared a few things, knowing he was always there if we needed him, that he was proud of us; we knew he loved us and felt loved back.  Dad had an amazing ability to listen, even when we needed to say tough stuff, we always felt heard.  He taught us how to be honest with our feelings, not to be afraid of being angry or wrong or saying we were sorry. We were loved through anger and hurt. This allowed our love to flow freely, unhindered by things unresolved or unsaid and made way for celebration and joy. We all shared the knowledge that we had not left anything unsaid.

For me, Dad was a champion and mentor.  Many of my memories are of being with him while he worked. As a child I grew up in the halls of the Vancouver Film board, hanging around at telethons or driving films down to Seatle when he was with KCTS (we always went through the truck border with the film cans in the trunk because he didn't want to do the paperwork).   I played with my dolls in the projection booth the summer he ran a movie theatre in Aggasiz.  
In 1994 I started working with him at his Documentary company in Toronto, he had moved to the UK, so I did his administrative stuff as I worked to establish my career.  

He taught me how to be a producer, what was important, and what wasn't. People were important, the content was important, the big picture mattered, the small stuff didn't.  It was a hard go, but he was always there.  We would meet at the markets in Banff or Cannes, New York, or Washington, I would look out at the intimidating crowds of broadcasters and buyers, and there among them would be my dad, with his amazing smile and a big hug. Always ready with encouragement, advice or a coveted introduction.  

Often when I told people my name they would ask "are you related to Bill? and then share an affectionate story of him helping them or an adventure they'd had together.  Being "Bill Nemtin's" daughter meant people wanted to help me because they admired and cared for him.  I learned from him how important relationships were, that the network of people who you liked and trusted was everything. 

He taught me how to think about things, to understand other people's perspectives and interests, how to be strategic, and the power of a good story. He loved complexity, he wasn't interested in black and white issues, but all of the shades of grey in between. I remember sitting alone in his office in Toronto watching the Hand of Stalin weeping. They had been the first film crew behind the iron curtain, allowed to explore the archives and tell the stories of the horrific year.  The films showed the pain on both sides, how everyone had been a victim in some way.    He was passionate about really good content and its ability to create change.
 
I can still hear his words from my first TV Market  "never believe your own bullshit Andrea".  He played it straight and wasn't afraid to tell me if I screwed up, but would then promptly suggest I forgive myself and move on.  He thought I was too hard on myself. 

Dad made me believe I could accomplish anything I wanted to, and he was the first person I'd call with a triumph,  he would glow with excitement and pride. 

I was so proud to be his daughter, to be like him. We understood each other, we had the same wiring, in so many ways I felt like an extension of him, with him gone I feel a bit untethered, a little adrift.

I hope that moving forward I will be able to see myself as he saw me, through his smiling loving eyes. 



Big brother Bill

Billy, Howard, Stevo and Stu, there aren't many places in Southern Ontario, or BC that you won't meet somebody who knows one of the Nemtin boys!  Johnathan Zifken's reflection on Bill as a big brother says it all: 
"Despite great distances and infrequent visits, every single interaction I’ve had with Bill has been filled with kindness and love.  He taught me something really valuable without knowing it. How to be a great brother. Growing up watching the Nemtin boys showed me that no distance or gap in time can stop the power of brotherhood. He will be deeply missed by everyone. You were lucky to have such an incredible man/father in your life. Cherish all the wonderful memories.
Recent stories

Brother Bill

Shared by Sylvia Spring on January 14, 2021
BROTHER BILL (in the time of COVID 2021)
Brother Bill/Sister Syl
Small town wandering Jews
Both
You to Montreal/Vancouver/Toronto/London
Me to Buffalo/Toronto/Vancouver/Paris/NYC
Both
Routing via Galiano
Digging deep roots
Yours family...baby Jessica
Mine doggy...Heady
Film - Feminism - Family shared
Until...until our flight/fight
Rift-shift-drift
Time heals
We make deals
Love matters most 
Wandering small town Jews 
Billy - Sylly
Roots matter...routes too 
We will meet again Fading out on islands too/two 
Both

The Canadian Documentary Community remembers Bill Nemtin

Shared by Andrea Nemtin on January 13, 2021
Published in Realcrean and re-printed in Playback 

Bill Nemtin, filmmaker and executive producer of Achilles Media’s History Makers conference, has passed away at the age of 77.

As an award-winning documentary producer, Nemtin’s career first took flight at the National Film Board of Canada, where he began as a coordinator of its Challenge for Change program in the late 1960s. The program gave communities access to film and video to promote social change and featured nine films directed by IMAX co-founder and Canadian documentarian Colin Low.

Nemtin went on to work with many PBS stations in the U.S. while in Canada and in the UK, putting together international coproductions. Among the award-winning documentaries he produced and created are the Gemini-winning The Hand of Stalin, produced with John Walker Productions, PTV Productions and October Films for the BBC in 1990; The War of 1812, produced for the NFB by PTV Productions and Galafilm; and 2008′s Passage, produced once more by John Walker Productions and PTV Productions, and shortlisted for a Grierson Award for best historical documentary.

In 2008, Nemtin worked with Canadian events company Achilles Media as executive producer for the History Makers conference, which brought together producers and network executives from around the world working in the history, current affairs and documentary genres. The event was rebranded as the Impact Media Summit in 2013.

“Bill made History Makers the vibrant ‘must attend’ gathering for producers during the ‘golden age’ when cable channels offered history-packed schedules and before they switched their focus to reality series,” recalled consultant and publisher Peter Hamilton of documentarybusiness.com in a statement to Realscreen.

Over the past two decades, Nemtin lived in the UK, and after retiring from active production work in 2013, worked as an executive consultant. At the age of 70 he returned to his love of performance and launched a stand-up comedy routine under the stage name Buzz Newman. At 75, he began writing about his mentor and the founder of the National Film Board, John Grierson.

Nemtin passed away on Friday, January 8 in the United Kingdom.

In a statement provided to Realscreen, Claude Joli-Coeur, government film commissioner and chairperson of the NFB, said the film body was “greatly saddened” by the news of Nemtin’s passing.

“The NFB’s 80th anniversary in 2019 gave us a chance to work with Bill again when he presented the illustrated talk ‘My Grierson’ in collaboration with Hot Docs, and we’re grateful that we could reconnect with him on a very special event,” he said.

“His commitment to Challenge for Change helped to transform how the NFB worked with communities — and continues to do so to this day. Our current engagement with Canadian communities in participatory media, our use of new digital technologies to put creation into the hands of citizens, all this and more is part of Bill’s living legacy.”

Nemtin is survived by his wife Jane Drabble; his children, Andrea Nemtin, Jessica Martin and Tito Martin Nemtin; grandchildren James and Charlie, and brothers Howard, Steve and Stuart.

His daughter, Andrea, also worked on several of the above projects via PTV Productions, where she was president and CEO. Currently the executive director for Social Innovation Canada, she supplied a statement to Realscreen in remembrance of her father.

“My father taught me a lot about being in the world, and everything I know about producing, what was important and what wasn’t: people are important, content is important, the big picture matters, the small stuff doesn’t. On behalf of the family, we will miss him terribly, but carry the warmth of his smile and the sound of his laugh with us.”

The family has set up a fund to honor his legacy. Donations can be made in his name to C4C Canada via Canada Helps or 44 Alcina Avenue, Toronto, M6G2E8.

A new way to solve some of your town’s old problems: see yourself as others do, on miles of film

Shared by Andrea Nemtin on January 13, 2021
DON BELLDECEMBER 1 1968
A new way to solve some of your town’s old problems: see yourself as others do, on miles of movie film.
BILL NEMTIN is a young Turk at the National Film Board who’s convinced he’s helping discover a new and exciting purpose for the motion-picture camera. To him, the camera is no longer just a means of bringing information or entertainment to a screen, but a tool for reshaping society.

As a co-ordinator of the NFB’s Challenge for Change program, Nemtin is ore of the architects of what could be dubbed the Feedback Revolution, a movement that opens up a whole new world for film-makers. What they do is move into a community and film people just as they are — expressing their hopes, fears and gripes, and going about their regular affairs/ Then the film-makers screen the results to let the residents see themselves and their problems in a way they’ve never seen them before.

For most communities, the experience can be something approaching trauma, but it’s a potentially effective way for a town to find a cure for what ails it. Prejudices, bureaucratic bungling and corruption are brought out in the open and seen for what they are. The next natural step is for the people of the community themselves to start searching out new solutions. That’s the theory.

The NFB is involved in several Feedback projects. The largest of these has been at Fogo Island, a fishing community off the northeast coast of Newfoundland, where 5,000 inhabitants lived in quiet poverty — about 60 percent were on welfare — until an NFB crew moved in and set up cameras in such colorfully named villages as Joe Batts Arm and Little Seldom. In co-operation with Memorial University in St. John’s, the crew, under Colin Low, spent the summer of 1967 on Fogo Island, shooting more than 20 hours of film. This was pared down to six hours, composed of 23 films of varying lengths, under such titles as Jim Decker Builds a Longliner and The McGraths at Home and Fishing. When the editing was completed, the crew returned to the island to show residents the films.

“In some instances they were quite hostile to us,” Nemtin recalls. “One clergyman felt we were competing with him in a power struggle. We seemed to be gaining more attention than his sermon and he went to great lengths to denounce us.”

Even so, the islanders trooped in to see 35 screenings. A typical evening would begin with a light, entertaining film, followed by one or two films on local issues, such as fishing co-operatives, or education; these would be

discussed and sometimes volatile arguments would break out. Then to calm tempers and leave a good aftertaste, the NFB would end the evening with another light film.

Since the screenings, Fogo islanders have formed one new fishing co-operative and a central school committee. “More important,” says Nemtin, “there’s a new cohesive spirit among the islanders, a desire to help themselves.”

The Fogo islanders also found the films a vivid way to present their beefs to the Newfoundland government. Cabinet members who saw the films described them as “honest and constructive” and action was taken on some of the islanders’ complaints.

Feedback is also at work in Alberta. Two Indian film crews, trained by the NFB, have filmed Indians in their customary surroundings, then stormed into government offices with cans of developed film under their arms, to show how dismally treated Indians are.

In one incident, the crew walked into a welfare agency office at High Prairie to interview an official about a serious food problem among Métis at Loon Lake. After heated words, they were thrown out of the office, but the camerawoman, a pretty Haida Indian named Barbara Wilson, remained cool-headed enough to film the heave-ho.

In a controversial Feedback project at Halifax, NFB director Rex Tasker filmed Halifax’s militant blacks airing their views and got the results screened before a mixed audience of blacks and whites. At once, Haligonians were debating their racial problems with new terms of reference.

Mayor Allan O’Brien took a personal interest in the film, arranging screenings for municipal leaders and business groups in Halifax and Dartmouth. As a result, an agency was set up to help Negro students find summer jobs. The film also brought about a dialogue between the militant youth and the conservative older members of the Negro community, who previously had little contact with each other.

And at St. Jerome, P.Q., where a serious unemployment problem exists, NFB director Fernand Dansereau filmed shut-down factories, a strike meeting and daily activities of the people, then brought the reels back to the community. He says he is so pleased with the results that he may never again make any other kind of film.

(Wherever possible, the expense of

Feedback is being written off by whittling the material down into short fiLms suitable for theatrical distribution. But Nemtin points out that this is just a byproduct; the main purpose is still the feedback of films to the community.)

Already Feedback is being noticed outside Canada. Colin Low and Julian Biggs, former director of English production at the NFB, have taken a

year’s leave of absence to help several racially mixed communities for the United States office of economic opportunity.

“Soon this will be an accepted form of expression,” Nemtin believes. “Communities everywhere will be using film and its feedback as a tool to strike at the heart of society’s problems. Film in the community will be like a living newspaper.” DON BELL