The NFB was largely an anglophone enterprise until the 1950s when its headquarters were moved from Ottawa to Montreal and efforts were made to encourage the participation of Québécois filmmakers in the NFB’s initiative. At the forefront of this francophone movement was MMC!‘s favourite Canadian filmmaker, Michel Brault, and his Les raquetteurs (made with fellow filmmaking icon Gilles Groulx and originally funded to be a 3-minute news story) stands as a seminal work of Direct Cinema, one that thrust Quebec documentary cinema into contact with the cinéma vérité movements of the United States and Europe. This ethnographic work celebrates the good-natured disorder and absurdist character of rural life in la belle province. We’d love to see more of Michel Brault in the Criterion Collection (Brault was cinematographer on Claude Jutra’s Mon once Antoine (1971)), and recommend the Michel Brault: 1958-1974 Works DVD set (another NFB collection waiting for a Criterion blugrade).
As per the NFB:
This short documentary records the celebration and ritual surrounding a snowshoe competition in Sherbrooke in the late 1950s. The film marked the beginning of a new approach to reality in documentary and prefigures the trademark style of the NFB’s newly formed French Unit. Today, Les raquetteurs is considered a precursor to the birth of direct cinema. In French with English subtitles.