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Produced and directed by Harry Dunsmore Art Gallery of Ontario, 1990. VHS cassette, 28:00 min., $49.00 plus tax. Distributed by the Art Gallery of Ontario, Loans Consultant, Edward P. Taylor Audio-Visual Centre, 317 Dundas St. W., Toronto, Ont. M5T 1G4.

Grades 4 and up/Ages 9 and up

Reviewed by Frances Daw Bergles

Volume 20 Number 4
1992 September

One is at the same disadvantage in reviewing this video as is the hapless person whose job it is to introduce a renowned figure. What can you say except that it needs no introduction? Everyone is acquainted with the Group of Seven, the icons of Canadian painting, and the icons they produced of the Canadian north. They and their works are national treasures. The subtitle of the documentary is instructive, for the north shines in this work as it does in the work of these great painters.

Historical stills and moving footage are intercut with in situ photography of the landscape and the host/narrator, David Wistow, discussing the lives and works of Harris, McDonald, Jackson, Varley, Lismer, Charmichael, Johnston (who left the group), Casson (who replaced him), and the Group's mentor, Thompson. However, it is the paintings and the north, reproduced in brilliant, colourful cinematography, that take centre stage and lift the documentary beyond the realm of being merely competent. Particularly effective are the dissolves from the 8 x 10 oil boards worked in the field to the final pictures.

We are indebted to Henry Dunsmore, the producer/director of the video, for he, like the men he portrays, shares the same bold philosophy of celebrating his own land. It is a treat to see a work that reflects ourselves and our culture, rather than that of others. And we, along with Dunsmore, are indebted to a number of galleries, most notably the McMichael, the National and Hart House, for allowing their paintings to be photographed, and to various Canadian funding agencies for allowing the video to be produced.

Frances Daw Bergles is Department Head, Fine and Performing Arts, at Saskatoon Public Library in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

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