Athabasca U-Tube

When I was in elementary school years?okay, decades?ago, there was one sure way teachers could persuade students to stay quiet for an extended period: show a film.

Since it was school, the films we saw were educational and relevant to whatever subject we were studying. We did not watch feature-length movies?except for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (and the teacher fast-forwarded through the love scenes.)

I remember one short film we watched in Geography class: a humorous depiction of the Great Lakes? geological history. Throughout the film, a canoeist traces an accelerated history of the lakes, and in one memorable scene he drops many metres to the water’s surface when the ice age abruptly ends.

Now, I can watch that film again. Through AU’s library, students have access to thousands of films from the National Film Board. The Rise and Fall of the Great Lakes, the film I remember, is a seventeen-minute documentary and one of dozens by acclaimed Canadian naturalist and filmmaker Bill Mason.

Students can access National Film Board (NFB) films through AU Library’s website. Go to “Find Resources” then click on “Image, Audio and Video”. Click on the letter “N”, then “National Film Board.” You’ll be asked to login with your AU student ID and password if you are not already logged in to your AU account. Once you access the NFB site, you’ll have online access to many films produced by the National Film Board.

There are around 3000 productions on the NFB site; most are free to watch online. From animated shorts to full-length documentaries to alternative dramas, there’s a bit of everything from NFB’s 70-year history. You can browse films by genre, subject, or title, or search by keywords. Films can be viewed on your computer, or you can download an app to watch films on your mobile device or smart TV.

If You’re interested in Archaeology, you can watch “The Man Who Discovered America“, a 20-minute documentary on Norwegian Helge Ingstad, who discovered the Norse settlement site of l?Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland.

If your interest includes Environment and Conservation, you might be drawn to “Crapshoot: The Gamble with our Wastes”, a 52-minute documentary that follows the path of waste and its effects on the environment.

Studying Law? How about “Sharia in Canada: Something to Fear?”, a two-part look at the 2005 debate over Islamic tribunals in Ontario.

Literature more your thing? You’ll find bios?some charmingly dated?of Canadian authors such as Mordechai Richler, Farley Mowat, W.O. Mitchell, and Margaret Atwood.

Music lovers are not left out with everything from “Spirits of Havana“, a 90-minute glimpse into Cuba’s music scene, to the short but sweet animated rendition of the folk ditty “The Cat Came Back“.

In addition to educational and interesting films for you, the NFB catalogue includes hundreds of animated and short films for children. If you need your kids to give you some quiet study time, you can follow the example of my elementary school teachers: load up a film. Just make sure the kids watch the film out of your sight and hearing or you’ll be watching Snow Cat along with them.

Whatever your interests or course of study, you’ll probably find something to watch in the NFB catalogue. The danger is that you might find too much. After extensively researching this article, I can attest that NFB is almost as addictive as Youtube.

Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario. Follow Barbara on twitter @ThereGoesBarb.

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