#tbt Evelyn Spice Cherry: Documentary Wonder Woman

Evelyn Spice Cherry was the first female at the NFB and made over 100 films.

By Pat Mullen

Hollywood’s a-Twitter with this week’s release of a superhero movie that’s actually supposed to be good, but long before Patty Jenkins stepped behind the camera or Gal Gadot picked up a sword and shield, Evelyn Spice Cherry was the first wonder woman of the movies. The Saskatchewan-born Canadian film pioneer was tapped by John Grierson as a key filmmaker in the development of the National Film Board of Canada. Cherry, frequently collaborating with her husband Lawrence, made over 100 films at the NFB and left a prolific body of work. Her films were crucial in developing the voice of the prairies, particularly the NFB’s agricultural unit. (Read a recent profile of the filmmaker at the Regina Leader Post.)

In the cross-Canada road trip of POV #105, Alex Rogalski looks at the legacy of this wonder woman from the wheat fields. “As the first female and Canadian with the organisation,” Rogalski writes on Cherry’s work with the NFB, “her contributions in developing the Agricultural Unit…made her a cinematic pioneer in the province. She helped establish social documentary form using a prairie lens that didn’t shy away from political ideologies that would be shared on a national stage.”

Watch a sample of Cherry’s golden view of the land in the 1943 NFB film Windbreaks on the Prairies. This agriculture doc looks at the early settlers of the land and it offers a cautionary tale for those who move in to harvest the prairies’ riches. This excerpt from Cherry’s body of work is also a pioneering eco doc. (Although the narration is a little dated!)

Windbreaks on the Prairies, Evelyn Cherry, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Stay tuned for more stops on the cross Canada road trip, which had its first stop in Atlantic Canada last week.