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10 great films from the last decade that you may not have seen

10 great films from the last decade that you may not have seen

With the first decade of this century coming to an end, many people have decided to compile top 10 lists of just about everything under the sun. To change things around a bit, I thought it would be interesting to focus on 10 films that, for the most part, people have not heard of or seen. My formula for choosing these films is very unscientific: They are 10 films produced between 2000 and 2009 that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Socially Responsible Films

This decade has seen the NFB put an emphasis on films about the environment, as well as documenting many unique biographies of Canadians. It is in our mandate to make socially responsible films, something we have never shied away from over the last 70 years. We have produced our fair share of investigative films in which we ask difficult questions about important subjects, such as war, cloning, violence against women and children’s rights.

A great example of this is War Hospital, which takes an unflinching look at a field hospital in Kenya treating victims of the bloody civil war in Sudan. There’s no narration, but there are some incredible images of dedicated medical workers who make a difference and restore dignity to people stuck in chaos.


Our concern for the environment is not new. We have been producing films on the planet’s delicate ecosystems since the 1940s. We continue to inform and present the facts as they are, while suggesting concrete solutions.

We have made films on famous Canadians since the NFB was created, and this tradition continues. But we also create films on everyday Canadians making a difference. Salvation highlights the work of the Salvation Army in Toronto. Earth to Mouth shows the owners of a farm dedicated to growing Asian vegetables for the country’s kitchens. Okanagan Dreams focuses on young Quebeckers who go pick fruit in British Columbia.

The Future

Hopefully the next 10 years will bring many new and outstanding films that will make you think, that will promote discussion and change, and that will entertain you.


Albert Ohayon

Albert Ohayon est l'expert de la collection à l'ONF : il a vu plus de 8 000 films! Albert a étudié le cinéma et le journalisme à l'Université Concordia, à Montréal, et travaille à l'Office national du film du Canada depuis 1984.

  • Okanagan Dreams
    2001|46 min

    Who in their 20s hasn’t dreamt of going away for the summer to work somewhere exotic? In this sunny film we follow several young Quebeckers as they go pick fruit in British Columbia. It is Shangri-la for them, as most have never set foot outside of Quebec. The chance to live an adventure away from their parents for the first time brings the young people to the various farms to pick fruit, make friends and create lasting memories. One of the characters best sums it up when he says that working in the Okanagan Valley with the mountains surrounding him is so much better than being stuck in an office in Montreal. I guarantee that this film will put a smile on your face.

  • Our Town Faro

    What do you think of when I say the word Yukon? Snow? Ice? Winter ? Dogsleds? Well, that is what I used to think of until I saw this great short film. The town of Faro was built by a mine that eventually closed, never to re-open. Instead of focusing on this negative, the residents started to talk about the fact that Faro was a great place to live, prosper and raise children. They decided to recruit people to move there and help their community grow. No hard sell, just focusing on the positives. As the main character says, there is no reason for people to live in one place over another. We could all move to Toronto and be done with it. But the residents of Faro love their town because it is unique and has a sense of community. It remains their piece of heaven. This film shows us that sometimes it is the simple things in life that are the most attractive.

  • Westray
    2001|1 h 19 min

    How do you tell the story of a national tragedy without focusing on the gory details or becoming sensationalistic? Easy – focus on the people. This has always been Paul Cowan’s biggest strength. He presents real people to us, warts and all, allowing us to empathize with them and appreciate what they have lived through. The tragedy of this coal mine disaster was presented to us on the news at the time in short, digestible bites. We learned almost nothing about the people who lived it, but in Westray we are told a compelling, fascinating story through their eyes. Cowan is not afraid of using re-enactments if this helps advance the story, but his films remain documentaries, and the real people get a chance to tell their side of things. What I love about Westray is just how honest these stories are. The suffering, the guilt and the anger are real. These are not perfect people, but guess what folks? Neither are we.

  • Citizen Z
    2004|11 min

    A Lonely Zamboni, evil puppets, strict city inspectors and a community in crisis. Monty Python sketch? Crazy Dali dream? Actually, it’s a hilarious story of fighting city hall and winning, told with humour and charm.

  • The Tree That Remembers
    2002|50 min

    Beyond the headlines of political unrest in Iran, this film focuses on several people who were imprisoned and tortured by the government there simply for their beliefs. Director Masoud Raouf points a very intimate portrait of these people who, having escaped to Canada, now have to deal with apathy from their adopted country. Some of the stories are heart wrenching, but throughout we see just how strong the human spirit really is.

  • Earth to Mouth
    2002|41 min

    This film by director Yung Chang (Up the Yangtze) takes a gentle look at the Wing Fong (which means “forever bountiful”) Family farm in Newcastle, Ontario. What makes this film so special is the respectful way in which it presents all its subjects, from the owner to his mother to the migrant Mexican workers who come to help harvest the crop of Asian vegetables. Even though these people are from such vastly different backgrounds, everyone works together for a common purpose.

  • War Hospital
    2005|1 h 29 min

    When I first saw this film I wasn’t sure what I was in for. While it contains some very difficult moments, it also has moments of pure tenderness, such as the scene in which a nurse comforts a distraught mother whose premature baby is being treated. The camera is respectful, never obtrusive. There is no narration and we quickly get used to the chaotic nature of this type of field hospital. From the airlifting of patients from combat zones to the treatment of women who have had problems during childbirth, the logistics of running this hospital in these conditions are mindboggling. It is a tribute to the dedicated men and women working there that so many lives are saved and so many people are treated. A film not to be missed – but definitely not for the squeamish.

  • The Pacifist Who Went to War
    2002|51 min

    Imagine having to make a decision that goes against everything you have ever been taught. Imagine that by making this decision, you will alienate your own brother. Such was the dilemma faced by young Mennonites during the Second World War: To go against their religious teachings and fight in the war or to be conscientious objectors. This touching film introduces us to two brothers from southern Manitoba who took different paths. It is easy in hindsight to judge people, but one must remember that the pressure to enlist and fight overseas back then was tremendous. Who is to say that we would have reacted differently? The filmmaker is not just concerned about decisions made 50 years ago. He includes some revealing sequences in which young Mennonites discuss the implications of pacifism in recent times and reflect on non-violence in light of contemporary realities.

  • Salvation
    2001|50 min

    When I first saw this little gem, I was struck by the fact that, like most people, I know who the Salvation Army are but I know very little about what they do and how they work. In Salvation, we meet some incredible people who truly make a difference out there: front line workers in this evangelical army who put the needs of others before their own. I was especially impressed with the couple who live and raise their children in the community they serve. Their ideas about religion and God are striking: Forget about prayers and fasting but clothe the naked, feed the hungry and take in the stranger, only after that is worship acceptable. Like a ray of sunshine, this film shows there is hope for the world that comes through service to others.

  • My Son Shall Be Armenian
    2004|1 h 20 min

    To be fulfilled one must understand and embrace one’s roots regardless of how painful that process may be. Cultural memory can be a thing of beauty but it can also suffocate you. In this enthralling film we follow several Canadians of Armenian descent as they visit Armenia to try and re-connect with its past, and then move on.