Filmmaker / Producer, National Film Board of Canada (NFB). Born: Trinidad & Tobago (in Canada since 1969).
Selwyn Jacob is an award-winning filmmaker, based in Vancouver, who has produced or directed more than 40 films since joining the NFB in 1997. His recent projects include, Mighty Jerome, a feature-length documentary on Vancouver sprinter Harry Jerome, directed by Charles Officer (2010); and When You Give of Yourself, a short film directed by Lynne Stopkewich for the 2010 Governor General’s Awards.
His filmography includes documentaries such as Warrior Boyz, about the root causes of gang violence in the South Asian community of Metro Vancouver (2008); The Journey of Lesra Martin, about a former street youth who helped to free Rubin “Hurricane” Carter from prison; From Harling Point, about the first Chinese cemetery in Canada (2003); Jeni LeGon: Living in a Great Big Way, a portrait of one of the first Black women entertainers in Hollywood to sign a long-term contract with a major Hollywood studio (1999); John McCrae’s War: In Flanders Fields, a look at the WWI Canadian army doctor who wrote the poem, “In Flanders Fields” (1998).
Prior to joining the NFB as producer, Selwyn was an independent filmmaker who directed two award-winning NFB releases: Carol’s Mirror, a film for schools about racism and equality (1991); and The Road Taken, portraying the Black sleeping car porters working the Canadian railroad (1996). Some of his other films include: This Land (2009); River of Life (2007); Between the Laughter (2006); Why Thee Wed? (2005); My Father, My Teacher (2005); When Hockey Came to Belfast (2004); A Tribe of One (2003); Obaachan’s Garden (2001); Java Jive (1999); Yuxweluptun: Man of Masks (1998); Beaverbrook: The Various Lives of Max Aitken (2000); Al Tasmim, on the struggle to save Edmonton’s Al Rashid mosque (1995). And, early in his career he produced, We Remember Amber Valley, a chronicle of Alberta’s first Black community (1984); and The Saint from North Battleford, the story of Rueben Mayes, the first Canadian (who also happened to be Black) to be named Rookie of the Year in the NFL (1989).
Honours: Several including, Premier’s Award of Excellence, for work with Alberta Curriculum Standards Branch (1998); Canada Award, for The Road Taken, Gemini Awards (1998); John Ware, Lifetime Achievement Award, BAASA (1997); Kathleen Shannon Award & Best Documentary, for The Road Taken, Yorkton Short Film & Video Festival (1997); Best Educational Award, Birmingham, and Golden Apple Award, Oakland for Carol’s Mirror (1993); Michael Blaustein Biography Award, for Jeni LeGon, Pittsburgh.
Reviewed in: “Choosing the Road Taken,” New Trail, (University of Alberta Alumni publication, 1997).
Education: MSc, Film, University of Southern California (1975); Bachelor of Education, University of Alberta (1970).
Heroes/role models: Fil Fraser, friend.
Favourite book? The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier is currently my favourite book. I can pick it up and randomly go to any section and still find something very inspirational to read.
Favourite quote? From my principal at Teachers’ College, “You can’t move too far ahead of your society.”
Given the chance what would you do that you haven’t done as yet? Create a venue or event for visible-minority filmmakers to meet, share stories and support one another.
Who or what inspires you? People who follow their dreams.
Why do you do what you do? I am fulfilling a long-lasting desire to make films about under-represented people, and I get a lot of satisfaction from doing that, but more so from the satisfaction that it brings to people when they see their stories on film.