Paddle to the Sea


I see that the National Film Board of Canada is putting a number of its documentary, shorts, and experimental films online for free viewing. Many of them are full length with many others just having excerpts.

I remember as a grade 2 student many years ago watching a 1966 film entitled, “Paddle to the Sea.” For some reason, it was one that stuck in my mind. I don’t remember all the details, but there are definitely some scenes etched in my memory. The film is about a little hand-carved boat that a native boy makes and throws into Lake Superior. The film documents its progress through the  waterways until it eventually reaches the ocean. One scene in particular that I remember was the boat going through some sludge. That really troubled me to think that some of our water was so polluted. Unfortunately, the film isn’t available in its entirety, but you can watch a short clip here.

For a hilarious short animation, I’d recommend The Cat Came Back. If you have kids, they will love it. We could even talk about the theological ramifications of the ending if you want!

Whatever the case, there’s lots to explore on the NFB site.


8 thoughts on “Paddle to the Sea

  1. My kids got Paddle to the Sea for Christmas and loved it. I was sort of surprised because it has a real documentary feel to it. But they found it gripping and magical even.

  2. Grant McMillan

    I remember watching Paddle to the Sea in school as a kid and being slightly freaked out by it.

    Paddle to the Sea was filmed by my canoe-hero, Bill Mason. I have his book on how he created the movie. He was a Christian man from Winnipeg, who moved to Ontario. He worked as a graphic artist, became a film maker for the National Film Board of Canada, and was nominated for an Academy Award for his film Waterwalker. He pioneered techniques for filming while canoeing and flying, and became very well-known for filming wolves from his NFB film on wolves and then dropped it all to become an artist (oil painter). The funny part is that most of his paintings are around 5 inches square!

    He made Chestnut Prospector canoes (the cedar ribbed, canvas covered variety) famous. He died too young of cancer.

  3. Funny, I always felt sorry for the boy who lost his canoe :}

    Somehow I missed that Bill Mason had done that one–shows how much attention I paid in class WAY back then. Would love to have one of those Chestnut Prospectors…might have to build me one 🙂

  4. Fear not, Paddle to the Sea is slated to be put online mid-June. In the meanwhile, you can enjoy another Bill Mason classic, Waterwalker. If you can’t wait until June, Song of the Paddle will go online mid-March. Glad to see so many Bill Mason fans out there!

  5. Thanks for the “inside scoop” from the NFB, Julie! I’ll be watching for the entire film!

    I think this a great service that the NFB is providing, by the way. Thank you!

  6. dianne

    My granddaughter Molly age 7 in Ayckland just wrote to tell me that she enjoyed this film so thanks to it being online. She loved the boy painting it and so did I. The reason he could not go was maybe TB at that time? He did cough. I had forgotten the other details though for I saw it as a kid about her age in elementary school in Sturgeon Falls. As a teacher I showed The Loon’s Necklace to my students. Magical these and the other films like The Cat Came Back and The Logdriver’s Waltz which my 38 year old son can sing to us. Thanks again.

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