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‘Groundbreaking’ film about Banff-Jasper Highway now streaming

The NFB is working on digitizing and re-releasing films from various regions in Western Canada.

You have likely seen the majestic views along the highway linking Banff and Jasper, but you’ve never seen them like this.

The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) has recently programmed the 1940 short documentary called “The Banff-Jasper Highway” on its streaming platform.

Maintained by Parks Canada, Highway 93 is now known as the Banff-Windermere Parkway south of the Trans-Canada Highway and the Icefields Parkway north of the Trans-Canada Highway.

This glimpse into the construction of this highway is the perfect love letter to the most beautiful drive in the world. The 10:25-minute-long, black-and-white travel film will transport you more than eight decades into the past.

The documentary can be found on the NFB’s website.

“The Banff-Jasper Highway” has recently been restored and digitized from the NFB’s vault near Montreal as part of a larger effort. This initiative is managed by Camilo Martín-Flórez, the NFB’s English Program Collection Curator.

“As part of the NFB's new direction, there’s an initiative to re-release collection films from various regions in Western Canada. Over the past two years, I’ve been dedicated to bringing these films out of the vaults,” he said.

“My ultimate goal is to engage historians, researchers and film enthusiasts who are interested in the cinematic history of Banff, Alberta cinema and West Canadian cinema in general. Through the lens of the National Film Board and its filmmakers, we aim to preserve and share these valuable stories.”

The documentary was narrated by the former head of the CBC's drama department Rupert Lucas. With his Movietone-style voice and the brass section instrumental soundtrack, the piece is highly reminiscent of all newsreels from the World War II era.

It shows much of the grand alpine landscapes that you would expect between the two mountain towns (along with some wildlife too) as construction workers carve out the roadway from the elements and elegant visitors pass by in stylish cars. The film ends by showing a few scenes in Jasper.

People can explore the full list of recently released films on the NFB website.

These films, recently digitized and emerging from the vaults, were program as part of the special programming this week, aimed to celebrating Banff’s Heritage Day on April 18.

One of the dozens of titles in this collection is director Guy Coté’s 1953 short called “Winter in Canada,” which includes a scene of a boy and his father traveling from their ranch in the Foothills to Banff for a winter carnival. The Winter Queen makes a brief appearance.

“The historical significance of these films is indisputable,” Martín-Flórez said.

“Films made during the 1940s in Banff are exceptionally rare. These films are true national treasures, as they allow us to revisit a rich historical period that cannot be replicated, akin to being part of one of the richest Canadian family albums.”

The full NFB library also includes “Mountain Magic,” the 1938 documentary that shows visitors recreating and enjoying the spectacular beauty of the Rockies in Jasper National Park.

Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Ecology and Environment Reporter at the Fitzhugh Newspaper since July 2022 under Local Journalism Initiative funding provided by News Media Canada.
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