Review: ‘Flash William’ from The National Film Board of Canada

Flash-William_National-Film-Board-of-Canada

The National Film Board of Canada is a treasure trove of film and animation that never fails to intrigue, entertain, and educate. The NFB’s Albert Ohayon shares today a little gem about filmmaker Flash William Shewchuck. He was a one-man film industry in his little mining town of Cadamin, Canada. With persistence and care, between working a variety of odd jobs, Flash William kept to his dreams.

This 20-minute film, which originally aired on Canadian public television in 1978, shows what one man can do if determined. Today, we take it for granted that we can create some sort of movie on a cell phone. But, starting back in the 1950s, it was unheard of for someone to undertake to make movies all by themselves with limited funds. Flash William not only made movies, he played them at his local theater. He was the director, sometimes the only actor, and even the ticket taker.

Flash-William-National-Film-Board-of-Canada

Directed by John Laing and Thom Burstyn, this documentary will inspire on many levels. There is no sign of the director as an egomaniacal control freak here. Left to do what he loves, in the seemingly blissful and innocent wilderness, Flash William is enjoying a true labor of love. That alone is something to cheer about. And Flash William wasn’t out there in the woods documenting moose. He made full-fledged dramas.

And he made all of his films in this hometown of Cadamin. At the time of the documentary, the mining town had long since dropped from a robust population of 1,000 down to 100. For the showing of one of his films, the whole town, minus two, were in attendance. The town itself is a character in the documentary and, even when Flash was directing only himself, he always had Cadamin by his side.

You can view “Flash William,” courtesy of the NFB, here.

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Filed under Canada, Documentaries, film, Filmmaking, National Film Board of Canada, NFB

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