Four Canadian Directors Confirmed for CFC/NFB Feature Documentary Program

    TORONTO, Nov. 5 /CNW/ - Filmmakers Yung Chang, Sarah Polley, Shelley
Saywell and John Walker will participate in the inaugural CFC/NFB Feature
Documentary Program. Created by the Canadian Film Centre (CFC) and the
National Film Board (NFB), the CFC/NFB Feature Documentary Program will launch
in January 2009 with the goal of developing successful original feature length
documentaries for international cinema audiences.
    This innovative six-month program was created for accomplished Canadian
directors with a theatrical documentary concept. Designed to help directors
develop cinematic documentaries that will advance the genre and achieve
commercial and critical success, this immersive experience combines a
residency at the CFC with project-specific mentorship from some of Canada's
and the world's greatest documentary talents.
    "I can't tell you how exciting it is to have four of the greatest
filmmakers in the country involved in our program," said Slawko Klymkiw, CFC
Executive Director. "It has been the dream of the CFC to engage in the area of
documentary production and with the compelling themes and the remarkable
talent working on these feature projects, we look forward to the day when
Canadians will see them in theatres."
    "At the NFB we push boundaries and act as a kind of creative laboratory
for filmmakers and the industry," said Tom Perlmutter, NFB, Government Film
Commissioner and Chairperson. "This initiative is a wonderful expression of
that. It is the first time that Canada will have a program specifically
dedicated to advancing the art of the cinematic feature documentary. The four
filmmakers selected bring an extraordinary range of experience and creative
vision --- from cinema verité work to drama, from intimate, personal
storytelling to large-scale international subjects. Now we are offering these
established artists the creative space to take their work to the next level.
We couldn't do it with a better partner than the Canadian Film Centre. This
follows on our highly successful collaboration creating North America's first
interactive feature film, Late Fragment, which was launched last year at the
Toronto International Film Festival. I fully expect we will be seeing some of
these doc projects at TIFF and other major festivals in the future."

    Director's projects and bios:

    Yung Chang - "The Fruit Hunters", a feature-length documentary, which
explores nature, obsession, commerce and adventure in the fruit underworld.

    Montreal based writer/director Yung Chang earned a degree in film
production from Concordia University and is also a graduate of the
Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York City, where he
studied the Meisner technique. His first documentary film, Earth to Mouth
(2003), produced by the NFB, a beautifully crafted meditation on migrant farm
labour, food production and Canada's Chinese community, circulated widely on
the international festival circuit, winning awards at the International Film
and Video Festival in Columbus, Ohio, and Montreal's Rencontres
Internationales du documentaire. His first feature-length documentary, Up the
Yangtze (2007), in which the highly contested Three Gorges Dam forms a
dramatic and unsettling backdrop for a moving and richly detailed narrative of
a peasant family negotiating unprecedented historic changes, received wide
acclaim. Award highlights include: Best Canadian Documentary, 2007 Vancouver
International Film Festival; Best Documentary Feature, 2008 San Francisco
International Film Festival; 2008 Toronto International Film Festival Group
Canada's Top 10 film; finalist for the IDFA Joris Ivens Award, 2007
International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam; and Grand Jury nominee for
best documentary in the World Cinema competition at the 2008 Sundance Film
Festival. Yung Chang is also the recipient of the 2008 Yolande and Pierre
Perrault award for most promising filmmaker at the 2008 Rendez-vous du cinema
québecois; received the 2008 Don Haig Award at Hot Docs; and the Charles E.
Guggenheim Emerging Artist Award at Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in
North Carolina.

    Sarah Polley - "The Stories We Tell", a documentary which explores the
nature of memory and storytelling.

    Sarah Polley has been writing and directing in Canada for the last six
years. Her short films include Don't Think Twice, I Shout Love (which won the
Genie Award for Best Live Action Short Film,) and The Harp. Her feature debut,
Away From Her, played to rave reviews at the Toronto Film Festival, Sundance,
and the Berlin Film Festival. Following its world wide theatrical release, she
was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and she won the
Genie Award for Best Director. Polley has also acted in over 40 feature films.
Her extensive acting credits include The Sweet Hereafter, My Life Without Me,
Don't Come Knocking, and The Secret Life of Words. She is also a political
activist, having worked with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, and
fundraising with the Canadian Centre For Victims of Torture.

    Shelley Saywell - "Ghost Dance", a spiritual and musical cinematic quest
to find the meaning of an ancient aboriginal prophecy about restoring the
ecological balance of the earth. This is a rock and roll film that takes us
from auditions to rehearsals to the concert stage of a completely different
kind of musical event. And to the places in between.

    Accomplished documentary filmmaker Shelley Saywell directed her first
documentary Shahira in 1987. It is the story of a woman braving the odds in a
male dominated society, fighting for the recognition and survival of a "lost"
tribe of nomads called the Bishari. She named her company "Bishari Films" and
for the past 20 years she and a small team of colleagues have continued to
work on stories with similar themes: focusing primarily on human rights
issues, particularly those affecting women and children. Saywell researches,
writes and directs her own films. She is currently in post production on a
feature length documentary called Devil's Bargain: a journey into the small
arms trade, which was filmed in the Horn of Africa, the United States, France,
Bosnia and Moldova. Her other films are: Martyr Street (2006). Hamas, Behind
the Mask (2005). Angry Girls (2004). Generation of Hate and Generation
X-Saddam (2003). Streetnurse. (2002). A Child's Century of War (2001). Out of
the Fire (2000). Crimes of Honour (1999). Legacy of Terror: the bombing of Air
India (1998). Kim's Story: The Road from Vietnam (1997). Rape: A Crime of War
(1995). Fire and Water (1994). No Man's Land: Women Frontline Journalists
(1993). Shahira (1988). Shelley Saywell is author of Women in War (Penguin
Books, 1986), and contributing author to Ourselves Among Others (St. Martins
Press, 1988) and numerous articles.

    John Walker - "Seven Wonders", a feature documentary on seven of the
world's master drummers and teachers who gather on a nature reserve in Canada
to pass on their secrets to forty students from around the world.

    John Walker is one of Canada's finest director/cinematographers working
in the documentary genre, and his films have won international acclaim. From
his fiction film collaboration, A Winter Tan, to his personal exploration of
myth and imagination in The Fairy Faith, Walker defies conventional subjects
and approaches. His most recent production Passage, challenges the form with a
complex mix of fiction and documentary that has been described as "a post
post-modern" exploration of fraudulent imperialist history. Released at Hot
Docs in April, Martin Knelman of The Toronto Star wrote "One of the great
triumphs in Canadian documentary film history." Walker's films have been
widely broadcast and have appeared at major international film festivals in
Toronto, Vancouver, New York, Los Angeles, Berlin and London. From the Academy
of Canadian Cinema & Television he has received seventeen nominations and
awards including the coveted Donald Brittain Award for best social/political
documentary - Utshimassits: Place Of The Boss; best documentary director - The
Hand Of Stalin; and best feature documentary - Strand - Under The Dark Cloth,
a personal portrait of his mentor, the photographer/filmmaker Paul Strand. His
film on the Cape Breton coal miners' choir, Men Of The Deeps, won three Gemini
awards including best performing arts, best documentary photography, best
sound and a best director nomination. His passionate commitment to the
documentary form led him to co-found the Canadian Independent Film Caucus (now
the Documentary Organization of Canada). Walker has conducted master classes
across the country and has mentored numerous emerging filmmakers. He has also
served as guest programmer for the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary

    The CFC NFB Feature Documentary Program is an immersive experience
specifically tailored to the precise needs of the participants who will
collaborate with industry experts in a professional environment. Unique to the
program is the supported inquiry which gives participants the time and
resources to experiment with elements like shooting, editing, sound and image
treatment as they refine the proposed approach to their projects.
Participants' projects will be considered for production at the conclusion of
the Feature Documentary Program.

    The CFC NFB Feature Documentary Program is led by Program Manager Jerry
McIntosh, who brings more than 20 years of expertise in the documentary field
as a Director and Executive Producer for CBC Television and CBC Newsworld.
Multi-award winning and Oscar-nominated documentary director, Larry Weinstein
serves as Senior Creative Counselor for the program. NFB's Senior Producer
Gerry Flahive is actively involved in all aspects of the program.

    About CFC

    CFC celebrates 20 years of launching Canada's most creative ideas and
voices in film, television and new media to the world. As Canada's largest
institution for advanced training in film, television and new media, CFC
proudly has more than 1000 alumni working in Canada and abroad. A leader in
the rapidly changing entertainment landscape, CFC is committed to promoting
and investing in Canada's diverse talent and during this anniversary year will
launch new programs that will continue to bring inspiring storytellers to the
world. For more information please

    About the National Film Board of Canada

    Canada's public producer and distributor, the National Film Board of
Canada (NFB) produces and distributes bold and distinctive social issue
documentaries, auteur animation, alternative drama and innovative digital
content that provide the world with a unique Canadian perspective. From the
early days of cinema direct to outstanding contemporary theatrical
documentaries the National Film Board of Canada has been a global leader in
documentary cinema for seven decades. Founded in 1939 by pioneer John
Grierson, the man who coined the very term "documentary", the NFB has produced
more than 13,000 films and videos and won over 5,000 awards, including
12 Oscars and more than 90 Genies.

    /NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A photo accompanying this release is available on
    the CNW Photo Network and archived at
    Additional archived images are also available on the CNW Photo Archive
    website at Images are free to accredited
    members of the media/

For further information:

For further information: For media inquiries, please contact: Tamara
MacKeigan, Communications Manager, CFC, (416) 445-1446 x304,; Jennifer Mair, Publicist, NFB, (416) 954-2045,

Organization Profile

Canadian Film Centre

More on this organization

National Film Board of Canada

More on this organization

Custom Packages

Browse our custom packages or build your own to meet your unique communications needs.

Start today.

CNW Membership

Fill out a CNW membership form or contact us at 1 (877) 269-7890

Learn about CNW services

Request more information about CNW products and services or call us at 1 (877) 269-7890