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Media, Information and Technoculture 2000F/G Chapter Notes -Nell Shipman, Educational Film, Middleground

Media, Information and Technoculture
Course Code
MIT 2000F/G
Daniel Robinson

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Reading Summaries
“The National Film Board and Government”
Zoe Druick
This reading discusses how the National Film Board of Canada has been able to survive
since it is not heavily commercialized like Hollywood or Bollywood films. Documentaries were
produced by the board in order to consolidate “middle-ground opinion in Canada and about
Canada” (259). The board was established in 1939 and played a heavy role in getting
government information and propaganda to the public during the war. After controversy
regarding the board’s “unfair advantage in securing government contracts… [and] its allegedly
politically dubious connections to communism” the board suffered budget cuts. In the 1950’s it
was able to remake itself as an “educational film provider” (260). Over the years the board
embraced new technologies like IMAX, and supported minority and First Nations filmmakers.
Today, the board “continues to fund documentary and educational films” (260). The film board’s
main purpose was to chronicle the development of urbanization and industrialization, which it
did up until 1964. They produced a record of experiences that would later be lost due to
modernity. Druick explains how bar graphs, maps, photos and movies are all linked “to the
conception of the population as an aggregate of different classes and groups with a variety of
regulatory civil needs” (263). The way in which films were able to record history was important
in creating modern states and citizens. Actors were used in films to represent a “typical”
member of a certain class. In this way, societal norms could be created and certain cultural
identities could be “fixed”. The people in the films represented statistics of the population.
“From The Firl from God’s Country: Nell Shipman and the Silent Cinema”
Kay Armatage
This reading discusses the life of Nell Shipman, a Canadian actress, director and writer
heavily involved with her films. Her most popular film was Back to God’s Country (1919)
where she played the heroine, saving her husband and bringing justice to the villains. Instead of
selling her films in Canada, she would travel to New York to gain distribution. But her
independent way of promoting her films was out of step with Hollywood. Though the portrayal
of women in Hollywood at the time was as confident, in control women, few of these women
were actually a rescuer. Shipman’s characters were confident and in control but also rescued
people. As time went on (1940’s) female characters were becoming increasingly one dimensional
and sexualized. Shipman’s heroic female characters were becoming a thing of the past.
“A ‘Featureless” Film Policy: Culture and the Canadian State”
Ted Magder
This reading discusses how the state’s role in cultural production has changed and “the
factors that have shaped the process of change” (273). Canada’s film industry could not measure
up to the U.S’s in 1925 because of our sparse population and wide distance between cities. To
“secure a constant product line” Canada had to have relationships with American distributors
(273). Independent distributors found it harder to succeed. It was argued that we needed a film
infrastructure that would promote Canada and Canadian interests. The unease of American
influence that was present during the time of the radio was still present here. People did not like
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