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VTR St-Jacques

Directed by Bonnie Sherr Klein
Canada, 1969 (documentary, 26 minutes, black and white, English / French)
Also known as "Opération boule de neige"
VTR St-Jacques
Image: © National Film Board of Canada
Video (National Film Board of Canada)

Film Description:
"An experiment in using videotape recording (VTR) and closed-circuit television to stimulate social action in a poor district of Montréal. A citizens' committee, formed in the downtown neighborhood of St-Jacques, was given a VTR unit, which they used to record people's problems and concerns. After viewing the edited tapes, people recognized their common problems and began to talk of joint solutions. In trying to change what needed changing they ran into resistance, but the effectiveness of this means of promoting joint action had been tested and proved."
-- National Film Board of Canada (source)

Film Credits (partial):
Produced by: George C. Stoney
Film Editing: Ulla Ryghe
Production Company: National Film Board of Canada / Office national du film du Canada

Notes about VTR St-Jacques


Quotes by the Director

"Video equipment does not create dynamism where none is latent; it does not create action or ideas; these depend on the people who use it. Used responsively and creatively, it can accelerate perception and understanding, and therefore accelerate action. The Comité des Citoyens de Saint-Jacques could have accomplished any of their actions without the video equipment. We could not say that at any time it made the difference between success and failure. But it made good things better, and helped people to grow. It is a useful tool."
-- Dorothy Todd Hénaut, Bonnie Sherr Klein (source)

"The videotape recording (VTR) project in St-Jacques is an attempt to extend to its logical conclusion the conviction that people should participate in shaping their own lives, which means among other things directing and manipulating the tools of modern communication necessary to gaining and exercising that participation."
-- Dorothy Todd Hénaut, Bonnie Sherr Klein (source)

Quotes about VTR St-Jacques

"Dorothy Hénaut and Bonnie Sherr Klein came to [George] Stoney with the idea of doing a project with a citizen's committee in a poor neighborhood in Montreal.] [...] VTR St.-Jacques is a record of Klein and Hénaut's success in training community residents to use video to assist in their organizing process and in educating local administrators about the need for locally available, affordable medical care. The film is amazingly fresh to this day and offers a textbook example of the joys and woes of community-made video."
-- Deirdre Boyle (source)

"In a moment iconic of the new theory of participant action research and community empowerment, [Bonnie Sherr] Klein is shown handing over the filmmaking equipment to the 'people.' Nevertheless, in a metafilmic style, Klein continues to film the people filming."
-- Zoë Druick (source)

"VTR St-Jacques effectively fulfils its obvious didactic aim, as it characterises concisely the advantages of video as social tool and catalyst, without exaggerating its role as surefire social panacea. After all 'it's only a machine', as someone says on the soundtrack, another way of getting people together, and of allowing them to express themselves. By way of conclusion the camera pans round a meeting of local people watching their programme about themselves; snatches of conversation drift into hearing about solutions to problems—the real point of the whole exercise."
-- Paul Madden (source)

"VTR St-Jacques [...] documents a pioneering example of community access video. Although the film-makers were responsible for training the videographers / editors, they otherwise wrote themselves out of the video work as professional documentarists. [...] With the coming of the camcorder, the model of VTR St-Jacques has been followed most assiduously at the BBC's Community Programmes Unit [...]."
-- Brian Winston (source)

Quotes about VTR St-Jacques [in French]

"Le projet vise à provoquer un dialogue entre les membres de la communauté par l'utilisation de la vidéo, 'la première expérience de la sorte que je connaisse' explique Bonnie. Elle livre la caméra à la communauté. Opération boule de neige (1969) résulte de l'enregistrement de cette expérience sur film afin de la rendre plus accessible d'une communauté à l'autre (l'accès à la vidéo n'était pas généralisé à l'époque); ce sont des séquences de dialogue des gens qui servent de narration."
-- Jacqueline Levitin (source)

"L'essor du cinéma direct dans les années 1960 au Québec a donné naissance à de nombreuses pratiques cinématographiques qu'il est aujourd'hui difficile de classifier, tant les approches esthétiques se confondent entre la fiction, le documentaire et l'essai. Parmi celles-ci, les débuts de la vidéo légère sont associés au programme « Challenge for Change/Société Nouvelle » de l'Office national du film, à Montréal. Une des premières réalisations, Opération boule de neige, en 1969, réunit deux réalisatrices, Dorothy Todd Hénaut et Bonnie Sherr Klein. Cette réalisation, annonciatrice du mouvement de la vidéo d'intervention sociale et politique, montre les luttes de la population du quartier Saint-Jacques afin d'avoir accès à des soins de santé. La vidéo est très rapidement utilisée par les collectifs montréalais engagés et accompagne de nombreuses luttes politiques de la Révolution tranquille."
-- Julia Minne (source)

Publications by the Director about VTR St-Jacques

Bibliography for VTR St-Jacques

Book Chapters

Brief Sections of Books

Brief Sections of Journal Articles

Articles from Newspapers, Magazines, or News Websites

Web Sites about VTR St-Jacques

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