Explore ‘The Grasslands Project’

Rancher Miles Anderson at his ranch south of Fir Mountain, Saskatchewan.
Courtesy of the NFB.

By Pat Mullen

Take a trip to the Canadian prairies in The Grasslands Project. This new series of short films from the NFB explores the landscapes and communities within the Prairie grasslands of the Canadian southwest. The series is available to stream for free at NFB.ca.

Filmmaker Scott Parker (Stories from Our Land 1.5) and NFB EP David Christensen (Hadwin’s Judgement) take audiences to nine communities in the grassy plains of Alberta and Saskatchewan across ten short films. Interacting with the people in these small pockets of the country often go overlooked, Grasslands captures authentic images of daily experiences from the prairies through community based filmmaking and the relationship that the filmmakers develop with their subjects—both the people and the land.

“Tough as it is to believe, Canada is still a rural nation—and yet so many of our documentary stories don’t reflect that,” says Christensen in a statement from the NFB. “With The Grasslands Project, we really wanted to work with people in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan to understand the kind of stories that were important to them, and then put them on the big—and small—screen.”

“The generosity of people in these remote prairie places—that was how we ended up making such strong films,” adds Parker. My role became one of interpreter, and with my colleagues at the NFB we leveraged our skills and resources to tell the stories that were presented to us. People all across this region made the project a success, and I’m grateful to every single one of them!”

The production of the films follows this philosophy of engaging with subjects, as Parker tailored the technical specs of his production into a mobile production unit that allowed him to live among the townspeople participating in the shoot. The project also brings a history of community engagement, as the filmmaker offered unique workshops with a wide range of Grasslanders to illustrate the deep connection between settings and stories.

The films of Grasslands cover a variety of subjects. A Rancher’s View looks at the value of cattle within the prairies by interacting with a rancher who sees the beefy richness in raising bovines, while No Other Place highlights the arts communities that thrive in the region, and The Last One and Population 21, which look at the declining populations of the towns, just to name a few.

Watch the films online at The Grasslands Project.