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NFB Films for iPad and Canada Day

As I write this on the afternoon of June 30, the weather forecast for Canada Day is looking somewhat iffy. So, if it turns out to be rainy and cold tomorrow, you can still celebrate our country's birthday in patriotic style, thanks to the National Film Board and the iPad.

Yesterday the NFB released "NFB Films for iPad", a free app that is currently topping the iPad charts on the iTunes store. The app (also available for the iPhone, but the small screen size does not do justice to the films) allows you to stream hundreds of NFB films, both short and long, famous and obscure, free of charge. If you can't watch a film immediately, you can save it for up to 48 hours, in case you'll be out of range of a wifi network when you do want to watch it (the app can't stream over cell phone networks). So instead of shivering in the rain watching fireworks, just curl up on the couch with a glass of B.C. wine and your iPad and watch some classic Canadian films.

Since its launch in October 2009, the iPhone version of the NFB app has been downloaded more than 235,000 times, with 821,000 film views, as of June 1, 2010, according to the NFB website ( The iPad version offers more than 1,000 films, and includes a children's channel, 3-D and high definition films. Unfortunately, the app crashes occasionally (check the comments on the iTunes store), which makes me wonder if it was rushed out too early in order to be available for Canada Day.

A scene from Richard Condie's 1985 film, "The Big Snit".

Like many Canadians, I've long been vaguely aware of the NFB and some of the films it has produced. But I hadn't realized just how rich and varied were the treasures in the NFB vaults: Mon Oncle Antoine, The Sweater, Ladies and Gentlemen... Mr. Leonard Cohen, Waiting for Fidel, Neighbours, The Big Snit are among the more well-known. Then there are the historical curiosities such as How to Build an Igloo (1949) and Royal Journey (1959). There's even a film jointly made by the NFB and Jacques Cousteau called Saint Lawrence: Stairway to the Sea from 1982. There are documentaries, animations, educational films and fictional films and the NFB is still producing new ones every year. And they're all ours.

Of course you don't need an iPad or iPhone to watch NFB productions. They're all available for viewing on the NFB website at

But that's enough for now. I have a date with a bowl of popcorn, my iPad and Cynthia Scott's The Company of Strangers. Happy Canada Day, everybody.

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