________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 13. . . .November 26, 2010


A Year of Sherbrooke.

Thomas Hale (Writer & Director). Joe MacDonald (Producer). Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2009.
53 min., DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: 153C 9108 472.

Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.

Review by Cathy Vincent-Linderoos.

***½ /4


This film shows how the residents of Saskatoon Community Centre, a long-term care centre, respond to their first-hand interactions with Jeff Nachtigall, a professional artist. Working with an open mind to different creative styles, he is able to successfully draw out everyone's artistic abilities.

     The centre has adopted the following philosophy: staff is here, working in the residents' home, and the residents are not simply living in the staff's workplace. Client-centred care cannot always be in the form of self-directed care because some residents are non-verbal; however, it is very evident that they are gently treated and well-nurtured in their surroundings. The residents' disabilities range from almost total paralysis to developmental delay to depression.

      As the artist had an entire year to spend with the residents, viewers are initially introduced to his plan and learn about his personal experience of disability. He said that it was only after an accident that he became artistic. His sense of disability is thus equated with an enhanced sense of artistic ability that he values.

      Viewers are treated to a remarkable exhibition of the final results from the year's collection of visual art in a variety of media. It was a boost to all the participants to see their work displayed in the art gallery, and they all got dressed up for opening night. At least one resident got a new lease on life through expression of his newfound abilities. I really like most of the work and think the life-affirming show was a valuable one -- in that family and friends could now see their loved ones in new, unexpected ways. The value to the larger community as a whole was created in part by the film.

      Nachtigall worked with the Mendel Art Gallery to create an exhibition of works by 12 residents and day-program participants, called The Insiders. Through art, the participants of this studio program have found a new voice, and this new voice has empowered them. ‘This project has been a profound and humbling experience. In a few short months, lives have changed,' Nachtigall wrote.

      The accomplished photographer, Thelma Pepper, is a senior citizen whose photographs of the residents are exceptionally good. The black and white photography showing the individual residents was included with the art in the formal show at the public Mendel Art Gallery. Pepper has taken time with each resident she photographs, and thus she is able to help the people choose their best portraits. To my eye, Pepper has shown the artists in startling, subtle but beautiful poses.

      A Year of Sherbrooke is a perfect film to show to directors of long-term care facilities, art galleries and artists. Since the film presents aging and disability in a refreshing way, I would choose show it to older students who are preparing to work in long-term care facilities and to upper level art classes.

Highly Recommended.

Cathy Vincent-Linderoos is a retired teacher living in London, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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