Life without Father

(Canscene) — Last month, I was captivated and moved by the honesty of film maker Nina Beveridge in The Idealist, a documentary on the life and work of her father, James, one of the great Canadian names in the history of documentary film.

FatherThe film, televised on TVOntario twice last month allows us a revealing glimpse into the life of a man to whom the documentary movement owes an enormous debt. It does not, however back away from showing the distance of not only the father-daughter relationship but Beveridge’s neglect of his two sons and the treatment of his wife and collaborator, virtually ignoring her valuable contribution as editor of much of his work.

Vancouver-born James Beveridge believed in the transformative power of film and became a catalyst for social change while still in his early 20s. Over a 50-year career he made more than 150 documentaries some of which took him to India, a country with which he fell in love and to the United States where his work played an important part in the Civil Rights movement of the 60s.

Joins an infant National Film Board
Beveridge was working in England when in 1929, the legendary Scottish documentary maker John Grierson was invited by Prime Minister Mackenzie King to establish the National Film Board. The first person he hired was Beveridge and together the two shaped NFB into a powerful instrument of wartime propaganda which after the cessation of hostilities developed into what has been for more than 50 years the main torch bearer of a harried and underdeveloped Canadian film industry.

Grierson’s retirement from the NFB in 1945 was beset by rumours that he was a closet communist. Beveridge’s hopes of succeeding Grierson died ecause of their close association and he began seeking other avenues for his talents. He became fascinated with a newly independent India and his work helped the country build a sense of nationhood. His three children were born there.

Another smear campaign
Hired by the state of North Carolina to head its film commission , Beveridge worked for a Democratic governor who championed the Civil Rights movement; the film maker’s work helped shape public opinion to the extent that the state avoided the violence that accompanied the struggle for integration in the rest of the South. However, when a Republican governor took office, he was dismissed, again victim to a smear campaign labelling him a “commie.”

Passed over a second time as choice of NFB head, this time due to an inexplicable denigration by the dour Grierson in a confidential memo from England Beveridge, continued in his passionate pursuit of creating a better world through the power of film.

At Toronto’s York University , Beveridge established the film program which has flourished to this day. In declining health, he was watched over by his daughter who in The Idealist, expresses her regret at the lack of emotion between this ideal-driven man and his family, but never scolds. In fact while her treatment is highly personal, Nina Beveridge never lets emotion overcome the story of a remarkable Canadian

Nina Beveridge informs us that, to date, no further public screenings either on Tv or in theatres are planned. The wide interest in documentary by young Canadians will surely bring wide viewership to The Idealist.

NOTE: NEWS HAS JUST REACHED ME THAT THE IDEALIST WILL BE RE-BROADCAST ON TvONTARIO’S THE VIEW FROM HERE AT 10:00 P.M.ON WEDNESDAY AUGUST 2 AND AT THE SAME TIME ON SUNDAY, AUGUST 6.
–30–

–30–

One Response to “Life without Father”

  1. Sara Wilson Says:

    Excuse, and what you think concerning forthcoming elections?

Leave a Reply