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‘A fortuitous accident’

Premiere of The Films of Fogo Island

By Janet Harron

In 1967 a filmmaker from the National Film Board (NFB) of Canada and a field worker from Memorial University made a series of 27 films on Fogo Island.

The exercise pioneered the use of film as a community development tool and made an indelible mark on film history in Canada.

A scene from a shoot on Fogo Island.
Photo: Submitted

Now, a documentary marking the 50th anniversary of the Fogo Process, The Films of Fogo Island, will have its premiere at Memorial’s School of Music.

Combining original footage with new interviews of the films’ subjects, the 44-minute long The Films of Fogo Island is produced and directed by history professor Jeff Webb and filmmaker Derek Norman.

“The original collaboration of the university and the NFB enabled people to articulate their common concerns and reach a consensus on co-operation,” said Dr. Webb. “The most tangible result was the formation of the Fogo Island Co-operative, which remains the engine of the local economy to this day.”

What came to be known as The Fogo Process, using film as a tool for community development, was subsequently replicated in rural Canada, the United States, India and several African countries.

“It’s a reminder and a challenge to look into the past to see what positive things came out of a certain kind of collaboration.” — Derek Norman

It was, according to Dr. Webb and Mr. Norman, “a fortuitous accident” that brought together Colin Lowe, a talented NFB filmmaker, Don Snowden from Memorial’s Extension Services, who was an innovative thinker in community development, and Fred Earle, who had been working on Fogo Island trying to overcome various tensions between communities and attempting to start a co-op. The project was initiated by Dr. Lisa Rankin, who acted as executive producer on the film.

“It’s a reminder and a challenge to look into the past to see what positive things came out of a certain kind of collaboration,” said Mr. Norman.

Fogo Island
Photo: Submitted

Four years in the making, and funded by the Institute of Social and Economic Research, the JR Smallwood Foundation and the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Co-operatives, The Films of Fogo Island is a production of Memorial’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Film Unit.

The Films of Fogo Island will have its premiere screening on Thursday, April 4. Doors open at 7 p.m.; screening begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Suncor Energy Hall, School of Music. The event is free and open to all. Parking is available in lot 15B.


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