Flatten The Curve with Three NFB Shorts

Screenshot from The Curve

By Pat Mullen

Keep flattening, planking, and/or crushing the curve with the help of some new stories from the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). Three new short docs from the NFB’s COVID-19 project The Curve debuted today to share experiences from Canadians under quarantine. The short films follow the releases of the shorts 60 Day Cycle and Parenthèse, which appeared earlier this summer ahead of The Curve’s official launch.

The Curve is the NFB’s “living document” of Canada during the pandemic. 30 short films offer windows into the lives of Canadians across the country to see how Canucks adapt to life under lockdown. The films are also creative outlets and tools for communication at a time when Canadians are generally limited to interactions via Zoom and messaging technologies, and generally unable to travel outside of their neighbourhoods and social bubbles. The shorts are among the first works conceived and produced amid the coronavirus pandemic and illustrate how filmmakers pivot to new modes for self-expression with skeleton crews and post-production from a distance. Each short reflects the experiences of isolation and removal with which many Canucks continue to struggle until “normal life” returns.

Kristin Catherwood, for example, offers an account to which some audiences may relate with In the Garden on the Farm. The short doc sees Catherwood leave the city and return home to her family farm to stay with her father. The family reflects upon the death of Catherwood’s mother and life on the farm without her. As the filmmaker and her father prepare for the Spring harvest, the ritual evokes old family memories. The short echoes an experience shared by many Canadians during quarantine as they use the time to step back and re-consider what really matters in life.

In the Garden on the Farm, Kristin Catherwood, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Similarly, Melaw Nakehk’o K’i Tah Amongst the Birch is a product of family time and getting back to basics. The short doc observes the Dene filmmaker as she and her family spend the pandemic in a remote camp in the Northwest Territories. Nakehk’o offers a personal diary as she watches the changing seasons, takes in the thawing of the river or the migratory patterns of the birds, and pitches in with the family while chopping wood and grilling grub. For audiences who can’t get into the camping craze that is taking COVID-era Canada by storm, the film offers a welcome escape from city life.

K'i Tah Amongst the Birch, Melaw Nakehk'o, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Thursday by Galen Johnson, on the other hand, captures the uncanny emptiness of city life under COVID. The short observes Rear Window -style the all-too-familiar sights of empty streets and neighbourhoods void of human activity. The distant barking of dogs accentuates the lack of people in the streets as Johnson documents the shift to life under lockdown that sees only the odd pedestrian or jogger scurry through the frame as long takes accentuate the dulling of the days. The short evokes the feelings of detachment and alienation that have made quarantine especially hard—but as the doc zeroes in on the sounds of city life while watching from a social distance, it provides a welcome sense of community as the absence of Winnipeggers reminds us that we’re all staying home for one another.

Thursday, Galen Johnson, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Stay tuned to The Curve for more stories about life under lockdown.