Directed and animated by Christopher Hinton; produced by Bill Pettigrew; music composed and sung by Wade Hemsworth and arranged by Kate and Anna McGarrigle National Film Board, 1991. VHS cassette, 5:06 min., $21.95 plus tax.
Reviewed by MaryLynn Gagné
Reviewed by MaryLynn Gagné
Volume 20 Number 5
No, this is not an informational video describing the habitat flight patterns and mating behaviour of the northern blackfly. No environmental messages here, no correlation with the latest science curriculum --just a refreshing, light-hearted vignette in which a catchy tune and lyrics blend with humorous drawings to form a fastpaced, amusing presentation.
The video is based on "The Blackfly Song" composed in 1949 by Canadian singer-song-writer Wade Hemsworth, whose voice is heard on the soundtrack along with arrangements and back-up vocals by the McGarrigle sisters.
The song, inspired by the composer's own experience travelling with a survey crew in northern Ontario, tells the tale of an unfortunate surveyor tormented by swarms of pesky blackflies. As we follow our hero from the unemployment office to the survey site, the voracious insects are omnipresent--"a-crawlin' in your whiskers, a-crawlin' in your hair, a-swimmin' in the soup and a-swimmin' in the tea."
In my opinion Blackfly does not compare, visually or musically, with The Log Driver's Waltz, a 1985 NFB production which also interpreted one of Hemsworth's songs. Nonetheless, Christopher Hinton's animation does include some delightful touches-- blackflies swimming with scuba gear, blackflies can-can dancing, a fiddle-playing bear and a forlorn-looking moose were some of my favourites. The camera work is also quite amazing--the viewer really senses both the frenzied activity of the flies and the agitation of the survey crew. Even the letters of the credits wiggle and dance!
At times, though, the action is almost too frenetic; we scarcely have time to register an image before it has metamorphosed or disappeared from the screen. I think that many of the subtleties (as well as most of the lyrics) would be lost on young children; the video requires more than one viewing, even for an older audience.
On the whole, Blackfly is pure entertainment, imaginative and stimulating. I can also envisage its use in the school system, perhaps as a stimulus for creative writing or as part of a unit on Canadian folk music. A printed insert of the lyrics of Hemsworth's song would have been a welcome addition.
I would recommend this video as an optional purchase for larger children's or young adult collections, or for those with a special interest in Canadiana.
MaryLynn Gagné is a reference librarian with the Education Library, University of Saskatchewan, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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