Challenge for Change / Société Nouvelle: Documents in Participatory Democracy
FIA Film 2017 celebrates the 50th anniversary of the National Film Board of Canada’s Challenge for Change program, a participatory project that used film as an instigator of social change.
Curated by Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn, Challenge for Change / Société Nouvelle: Documents in Participatory Democracy presents four thematic programs featuring a selection of films drawn from the NFB’s archive. Each program is paired with films from the influential Fogo Process series that emerged through Challenge for Change.
Between 1967 and 1980 the NFB created an unparalleled effort between government bureaucrats, documentary filmmakers, community activists and “common” citizens under the banner Challenge for Change / Société Nouvelle (CFC/SN). Approximately 145 films and videos were produced in English, and another 60 or so in French. Mostly shot on 16mm film or Sony Portapak video, the documentaries were made collaboratively with their subjects, and their aim was to seize and disseminate pressing issues in Canadian society, in turn generating social change. The methods employed were radical for the time and raised questions such as: “Can an on-going film project serve as a cohesive agent and catalyst for change within a community, and serve as a means of communication with government?” “What is community organizing?” and “What role can film play in participatory democracy?” The films selected for the series Challenge for Change / Société Nouvelle: Documents in Participatory Democracy revisit the questions once posed by the CFC/SN program, while serving as proofs in visual experimentations for political change.
Screenings will be accompanied by informal discussions with Nguyễn, FIA Director of Programs and Exhibitions Alexandra McIntosh, FIA artists-in-residence, and additional guests.
FIA Film 2017 is presented in collaboration with the NFB.
“A program designed to improve communications, create greater understanding, promote new ideas and provoke social change.” –– From the promotional poster of the film Challenge for Change (1968)
Thursday, September 14, 6:30 pm
The activist image in the hands of its citizens (1h 20)
• VTR Rosedale, 1974 (31 min)
Rosedale, once referred to as “the rear end of Alberta” by one of its frustrated citizens, pulled itself together as a community. It formed a citizens’ action committee, cleaned up the town, built a park, and negotiated with the government to install gas, water and sewage systems. It all happened within five months. The catalyst of this development process was the use of videotape recording (VTR) equipment by the citizens themselves.
• VTR St-Jacques, 1969 (26 min)
This short film was an experiment in using video recordings and closed circuit television to stimulate social action in a poor Montreal neighbourhood. A citizen’s committee filmed people’s concerns and then played back the tapes for the community. Upon recognizing their common problems, people began to talk about joint solutions. It proved an important and effective method of promoting social change.
• Some Problems of Fogo, 1967 (21 min)
Some of the problems discussed are the fishermen’s unions, the fish plant, able-bodied men on welfare, the problems of education, and the issue of the consolidation of schools.
Tuesday, September 19, 6:30 pm
Social changes for the poor (2h)
• The Things I Cannot Change, 1967 (55 min)
This film is considered to be the forerunner of the NFB’s Challenge for Change program. It is a look at a family in trouble, seen from the inside. Although filmed in Montréal, this is the anatomy of poverty as it occurs in North America, seen by a camera that became part of the family’s life for several weeks.
• Citizens’ Medecine, 1970 (30 min) In Montréal, the St. Jacques Citizens’ Committee set up a community health clinic, aided by volunteer doctors, nurses, dentists and medical students. This film shows discussion, planning, and the clinic in operation, and presents its problems and advantages as seen both by medical workers and by local residents. Members of the Citizens’ Committee participated in the making of the film, from original planning through filming, selecting and editing.
• The Founding of the Co-operatives, 1967 (21 min)
A record of the founding meeting of the Fogo Island Shipbuilding and Producer Co-operative.
Tuesday, September 26, 6:30 pm
For indigenous governance and the autonomous image (1h)
• The Ballad of Crowfoot, 1968 (10 min) A bitter, haunting, and impressionistic film that examines the situation of Aboriginal people in North America through the figure of Crowfoot, the legendary 19th-century Blackfoot leader of the Plains. A rapid montage of archival photos, etchings and contemporary newspaper clippings is married to the words and music of an impassioned ballad written by Micmac singer and songwriter Willie Dunn.
• PowWow at Duck Lake, 1967 (14 min)
A discussion at Duck Lake, Saskatchewan, where Métis problems are openly and strongly presented before a gathering of Indians and Whites. Among matters discussed are the kind of schooling available to Aboriginals and the limitations of education that restrict their opportunities to develop in their own way and in ways best for themselves.
• You Are on Indian Land, 1969 (36 min) A film report of the 1969 protest demonstration by Mohawk of the St. Regis Reserve on the international bridge between Canada and the United States near Cornwall, Ontario. By blocking the bridge, which is on the Reserve, and causing a considerable tie-up of motor traffic, the Natives drew public attention to their grievance that they were prohibited by Canadian authorities from duty-free passage of personal purchases across the border; a right they claim was established by the Jay Treaty of 1794.
Tuesday, October 10, 6:30 pm
Not all working mothers are equal (40 min)
• They Appreciate You More, 1974 (14 min) Aliette lives in Montréal with her husband and three children. Since both Aliette and Pierre work outside their home full-time, they share household responsibilities. This development has changed them as individuals and, they think, has affected the dynamics of their family—for the better.
• Mothers Are People, 1974 (7 min) Joy is a research biologist, a consultant to a large company. She is also a widow with two school-age children. In discussing her own dilemmas, she speaks for many other women. Apart from “discrimination against women,” Joy sees the absence of universal day care as a loss for children too.
• A Woman’s Place, 1967 (16 min) Two women discuss the roles and problems of women, education, and shopping on Fogo Island.
Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn
Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn is a research-based artist who lives in Stockholm. She completed the Whitney’s Independent Study Program, New York, in 2011, having obtained her MFA and a post- graduate diploma in Critical Studies from the Malmö Art Academy, in 2005, and a BFA from Concordia University, Montreal, in 2003. Nguyễn’s work has been shown internationally at institutions including the Vancouver Art Gallery (2017); MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina (2017); EFA Project Space, New York (2016); Mercer Union, Toronto (2015); MTL BNL at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montreal (2014); Kunstverein Braunschweig, Germany (2013); Apexart, New York (2013); Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Philadelphia (2011); Mason Gross Galleries, Rutgers University, New Jersey (2011); and Gasworks, London (2010). In 2011 she was commissioned by CC Seven to produce a site-specific sound piece for The Woodland Cemetery, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Stockholm. She has also been awarded a number of grants for her research-based practice from the Canada Council for the Arts (2010, 2011, 2014, 2015); The Banff Centre, Brenda and Jamie Mackie Fellowship for Visual Artists (2012); The Swedish Arts Grants Committee’s International Program for Visual Arts (2009, 2010, 2013, 2014); and the Swedish Research and Development Fellowship in the Arts (2007). Nguyễn is also this year’s Audain Visual Artist In Residence at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada and will participate in the fourth cycle of NTU Center for Contemporary Art Singapore’s Residencies Programme. In 2015, she was the first artist-in-residence at the Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm. The residency was organised by SWICH – Sharing a World of Inclusion, Creativity and Heritage – a collaborative project involving ten European museums of Ethnography and World Cultures. Together with curator Rado Ištok, they are currently editing a parallel compendium to Nguyễn’s exhibition Black Atlas presented at the Museum of Ethnography. Both the exhibition and publication are made possible with the generous support of Sharjah Art Foundation.
Fogo Island Arts programs are rooted in the conviction that art plays an important role in the formation of society. Launched in 2016, FIA Film explores the capacity of film to challenge the ways in which society is constructed and to open up space for creating the world otherwise. The program pays tribute to Fogo Island’s significant relationship to film that emerged through the National Film Board of Canada’s (NFB) Challenge for Change program of the 1960s and 70s. A participatory project that used film as an instigator of social change, Challenge for Change led to the hugely influential Fogo Process films, which documented Fogo Islanders’ way of life and shared concerns, empowering communities to act together to determine their future.
Images, from top:
Challenge for Change, film still. Image courtesy the NFB.
VTR St-Jacques (1969), film still. Image courtesy the NFB.
The Things I Cannot Change (1967), film still. Image courtesy the NFB.
You Are on Indian Land (1969), film still. Image courtesy the NFB.
Mothers Are People (1974), film still. Image courtesy the NFB.