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Canadian Film Becomes the Apple of the iPhone with NFB Application

December 31, 2009
Screenshot of a NFB film being played via the groudbreaking new app.

Screenshot of a NFB film being played via the groudbreaking new app.

The National Film Board has opened the floodgates with their renowned iPhone application launched last October. I have just downloaded their latest application and have finished watching Ha’Aki, an impressionist’s vision of Canada’s most popular game.

I discovered the NFB back when The Log Driver’s Waltz came to my homeroom in its wide, flat and powder-sprayed cans. At the time, the Academy Awards’ documentary, short films and animation categories were the only vehicles I knew of that non-Americans could use to expose their artistic product to a wider popular audience, and Canada was always in the running for these prizes. What would eventually become Internet was only a few connections shared amongst a handful of Army scientists.

However, the NFB has always been a progressive organization, and have become trendsetters of late. The site, which was revamped last year hosts over 1700 and counting films for free streaming – and now facilitates borrowing. The Board’s strategy is proving successful on an international scale. The 24,000 of the 80,000 downloads since launch of the application have come from outside of Canada. It is somehow gratifying to be able to actually count the appreciation in which Canadian film is regarded abroad.

The iPhone initiative has also received kudos from the Apple Blog, which has voted the app in their top 10 of 2009, for the Best Use of Content category. Most importantly, taxpayers get a return in the form of a giant national film library, open 24 hours and free to access from anywhere a signal can be had. It is fascinating to see how this public institution is learning to take advantage of the latest communications technology to promote the national brand.

To run the software, you need an iPhone or iPod Touch with OS 3.0 or higher. Once you have installed NFB, you can access different channels and load the films. From there, it is easy to browse and view hundreds of films. I found that because of the loading lag time, a good option is to “Watch Later.” This allows your device to load a film for a 24-hour loan. So far, it has exceeded the “borrowing” period, and it has not evaporated, dissipated or self-destructed.

I am astounded at the wealth of content, from classics such as “The Sweater” to the contemporary documentary serie“GDP”. I have watched more than a few films now, and so much of the product is stunning. However, the NFB is not resting on its laurels, but is pushing forward to create international partnerships. It will be interesting to see how the optimization of mobile media gives Canada a boost in affects the composition of the audience and promotion of international partnerships.

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