NFB on the Law

Yesterday the NFB made a huge collection of its film available to view for free online. They even have the press conference from their launch available for viewing (after a free registration), and a blog post. The site is tricked out with all kinds of 2.0 gizmos, probably enough to satisfy even the most twittery (or is that twitchy?) Slawyers.

A search for ‘law’ brings up three results:

The Days of Whiskey Gap
Colin Low, 1961, 28 min 5 s
Rousing tales of the North-West Mounted Police are brought to life through photos and artists’ sketches. In 1873, the North-West Mounted Police were established to maintain law and order in the North-West Territories. They undertook a trek from Fort Dufferin, south of Winnipeg, to Fort Whoop-up, near present-day Lethbridge, Alberta. The force raised the flag and proclaimed the Queen’s law, ensuring that the Canadian West would not become a lawless American-style frontier.

Whistling Smith
Michael Scott, Marrin Canell, 1975, 27 min 20 s
This film is a revealing portrait of a tough cop with a big heart. Sergeant Bernie “Whistling” Smith walks the beat on Vancouver’s Eastside, the hangout of petty criminals, down-and-outs and a variety of characters. His policing is unorthodox. To many drug users, petty thieves and prostitutes in this economically depressed area he is more than the iron hand of the law, he is also a counsellor and a friend.

Carts of Darkness
Murray Siple, 2008, 59 min 27 s
Murray Siple’s feature-length documentary follows a group of homeless men who have combined bottle picking with the extreme sport of racing shopping carts down the steep hills of North Vancouver. This subculture depicts street life as much more than the stereotypes portrayed in mainstream media. The film takes a deep look into the lives of the men who race carts, the adversity they face and the appeal of cart racing despite the risk. Shot in high-definition and featuring tracks from Black Mountain, Ladyhawk, Vetiver, Bison, and Alan Boyd of Little Sparta.

This last item may be a little off topic: relevant only because it profiles breakers of traffic laws, perhaps…

In addition the search turns up many works that are not streamed on the site, but which may be ordered, among them:

Law and Disorder: Animated Justice
How does the law affect us in our daily lives? How do we balance the freedoms, rights and responsibilities of the individual against those of a group or society?
Law and Disorder: Animated Justice is a practical and entertaining answer to these vital questions. It is designed to demystify and humanize everyday aspects of civil law. With different styles and techniques, this compilation of five animated films uses humour and whimsy to explore complex subjects. The topics include citizens¹ freedoms, rights and responsibilities, as well as consumer protection, advertising standards, prejudice and racism.
2003, 15 min 57 s

Understanding the Law: The Coat
A fashion-conscious shopper sees beautiful coats advertised in the newspaper. The next day, he’s the first in line to get his at the store. But they won’t sell him one! These are women’s coats, the store owner says, for women only! On the grounds that the newspaper ad constitutes a contract, the customer takes the vendor to court to win his right to the coat.
Understanding the Law: The Coat is episode one in a series of short, funny films designed to demystify everyday aspects of Canadian civil law. Wry humour and whimsical animation make this informative series lively and memorable. Technique: drawing on paper and computer-assisted colouring.
1999, 03 min 08 s

Understanding the Law: The Worm
On a hot and thirsty day, Mrs. Popcorn is shocked to discover a worm in her canned drink. When the beverage company refuses to accept the blame, she’s outraged! An intrepid consumer, Mrs. Popcorn takes the company to court for negligence.
Understanding the Law: The Worm is episode two in a series of short films designed to demystify everyday aspects of Canadian civil law. Wry humour and whimsical animation make this informative series lively and memorable. Technique: drawing on paper and computer-assisted colouring.
1999, 03 min 08 s

Unfortunately, the search engine also returns multiple hits for each item, so a bit of indexing is probably in order behind the scenes.

Also, the NFB appears to offer great support for their works, including educational materials for use in the classroom, and a different search engine here turns up different law-related works:

Defying the Law
Directed by: Marta Nielsen-Hastings
Produced by: Marta Nielsen-Hastings, David Wesley, Michael Allder
1997, 47 min 08 s

Immigration Law: A Delicate Balance
Directed by: Arnie Gelbart
Produced by: Joseph Koenig, Arnie Gelbart
1978, 29 min 24 s

The Legal Challenge: Are Copyright Laws Obsolete?
1986, 150 min 45 s

Our Constitution – The Law of the Land
Directed by: Jane Churchill
Produced by: Tamara Lynch
1990, 28 min 11 s

Trouble with the Law
Directed by: Paula Fairfield
Produced by: Shelagh Mackenzie
1987, 29 min 21 s

And even different results show up searching from this page

So, even if it is tough to figure out what exactly the have, in toto, at least it is easy to find something.


  1. kudos to the nfb for providing this service ! i still wish that i could download the films directly, but this’ll work in the meantime.

    just finished watching ‘carts of darkness’ and thought it was a very interesting film. al, one of the subjects, turns himself in to serve a 10-month jail sentence, and the first thing he does upon getting out is to take a shopping cart ride down vancouver’s mountain highway.

    fergie, another subject, is struggling with alcoholism, but refuses to live his life by other people’s rules, and prefers to live on his own rather than stay in a homeless shelter. his rejection of unwanted assistance is compared to the director’s own.

    at the end, similar to youtube, you’re given a selection of similar NFB films. ‘whistling smith’ is listed here, but also another one called ‘through a blue lens‘. here is the synopsis:

    “Constable Al Arsenault, along with six other policemen, document the people on their beat to create a powerful film about drug abuse. This group of officers developed a unique relationship with addicts in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. In this documentary, drug addicts talk openly about how they got to the streets and send a powerful message of caution to others about the dangers of drug abuse.”