The following are suggested reading related to some of the films we have made. They offer different detail and alternative perspectives that enhance the film experience. University instructors who use one of our films in class may want to draw students’ attention to the publication(s) associated with the film. These books and websites also provide an introduction to the research and literature on the subjects at hand and introduce many of the people who are featured in our documentaries.

Ron Harpelle is the author or co-author of several of these publications, and he is the co-editor of several others. We also include publications by others that we consider to be useful for further study. These are either from our partners in a few film projects or from other individuals. All of these publications serve to enhance the knowledge gained through watching the films and are suitable for reflection and further study. In addition, the authors of these publications have produced other books and articles that may be of interest. Look for references online to find out where you can get a copy of these and related publications.

Click to go directly to the suggested readings for a film

Long Walk Home: The Incredible Journey of Sheila Burnford
Under the Red Star and Letters from Karelia
Guardians of Eternity
Pulp Friction: People, Places and the Global Economy
The Big Blue
Hard Time
Citoyens du Monde/Citizens of the World
Dorothea Mitchell: A Reel Pioneer and The Fatal Flower
Banana Split

Long Walk Home: The Incredible Journey of Sheila Burnford

The best Canadian literature is shaped by our history and geography. Sheila Burnford is best known for writing The Incredible Journey, a book that was translated into several languages and made into two Disney films. What people do not know is that she also wrote five other books, both fiction and non-fiction, and numerous articles that were published at home and abroad. Burnford wrote about many subjects, but most of her writing either dealt with or was heavily influenced by her experiences in Northern Ontario and the Arctic.

Shiela Burnford did not write in isolation. Following her family’s move to Thunder Bay in 1948 she developed a lifelong friendship with Susan Ross, an Order of Canada award winning artist who was the niece of the “father of documentary” Robert Flaherty, famous for Nanook of the North. Together, these women befriended artist Norval Morriseau, who opened doors to northern Ontario First Nation communities. Burnford and Ross began their own incredible journey, focusing their attention on First Nations and visiting many remote communities for extended stays. Neither woman was trained as an ethnographer, but their work–Burnford’s books and articles, illustrated by Ross’s sketches–were some of the most insightful studies of isolated First Nations communities in the 1960s and early 1970s.

In 1964 Burnford published Fields of Noon, a collection of pensive essays about everything from her experiences with archaeology to hiking in the Pyrenees. This was followed by Without Reserve (1969), a book aimed at enlightening a non-Native audience about First Nations. After spending two summers at Pond Inlet on Baffin Island with Susan Ross, she published One Woman’s Arctic (1972), an account of her impressions and experiences. Without Reserve and One Woman’s Arctic became academic staples, and are used by researchers to this day. In 1973, she published a children’s book entitled Mr. Noah and the Second Ark (1973), a cautionary tale about pollution and the environment. She ended her writing career with Bel Ria: Dog of War (1978), a book that drew upon her personal experiences in Britain during WWII.

Suggested Reading for Long Walk Home

Books by Sheila Burnford

Bel Ria: Dog of War, New York: New York Review Children’s Collection, (1978)

Mr. Noah and the Second Flood, Praeger, (1973)

One Woman’s Arctic, Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, (1972)

Without Reserve: Among the Northern Forest Indians, Little, Brown and Company; (1969)

The Fields of Noon, Little Brown, (1964)

The Incredible Journey, Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, (1961)


Under the Red Star and Letters from Karelia

Find out more about Finnish immigration and settlement in Canada since the late 19th century. These books range in topics from historic to contemporary issues. The contributions to Canada by Finnish immigrants and their Canadian-born children are remarkable. They came in three waves and brought their politics with them. The first wave of immigrants fled poverty and Russian control over their homeland. The second fled right-wing oppression after a civil war that cost almost 40,000 lives. The third wave came after 1945 when the Finnish economy was on the ropes and when Finland was required to pay war reparations to the Soviet Union after WWII. It is therefore not surprising that the Social Democratic Party of Canada was founded in 1912 in the Finnish Labour Temple in Thunder Bay, or that during the 1920s, about 60% of the members of the Communist Party of Canada were ethnic Finns. Two of the most remarkable were Aate Pitkanen, a Canadian executed as a traitor by the Finns during WWII and the subject of Letters from Karelia, and Sanna Kanasto, a woman who dedicated her life to radicalizing men and women, and who is a main character in Under the Red Star.

Suggested Reading for Red Star and Letters from Karelia

Michel Beaulieu, Ronald N. Harpelle, and David Ratz, editors, Hard Work Conquers All: Building the Finnish Community in Canada, University of British Colombia Press, (2018)

Michel Beaulieu, Ronald Harpelle, and Jaimi Penny, editors, Labouring Finns: Transnational Politics in Finland, Canada and the United States, Turku: Institute for Migration, (Siirtolaisuusinstituutti) (2011)

Ronald Harpelle and Michel Beaulieu, guest editors, Developments, Definitions, and Directions in Finnish Language, Literature, and Culture, Journal of Finnish Studies, Vol. 14, No. 2, (Winter, 2010)

Ronald Harpelle, Varpu Lindstrom and Alexis Progorelskin editors, Karelian Exodus: Finns in North America and Karelia During the Depression Era, Journal of Finnish Studies/Aspasia Books, (2004)

See also for a website dedicated to the history of the immigration and settlement of Finns in Canada.


Guardians of Eternity

Guardians of Eternity is a film directed by France Benoit who has been a resident of Yellowknife for many years. ShebaFilms worked with France and the Toxic Legacies project headed by John Sandlos and Arn Keiling to produce the film. For indigenous communities throughout the globe, mining has been a historical forerunner of colonialism, introducing new, and often disruptive, settlement patterns and economic arrangements. Although indigenous communities may benefit from and adapt to the wage labour and training opportunities provided by new mining operations, they are also often left to navigate the complicated process of remediating the long-term ecological changes associated with industrial mining. In this regard, the mining often inscribes colonialism as a broad set of physical and ecological changes to indigenous lands.

This collection examines historical and contemporary social, economic, and environmental impacts of mining on Aboriginal communities in northern Canada. Combining oral history research with intensive archival study, this work juxtaposes the perspectives of government and industry with the perspectives of local communities. The oral history and ethnographic material provides an extremely significant record of local Aboriginal perspectives on histories of mining and development in their regions.

Suggested Reading for Guardians of Eternity

Arn Keeling and John Sandlos Eds., Mining and Communities in Northern Canada: History, Politics, and Memory Calgary: University of Calgary Press, (2015)

See also, a website associated with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council funded project that produced the book and the film.


Pulp Friction: People, Places and the Global Economy

While the film focuses on forest industry communities in Canada, Finland and Uruguay, the book takes a more general approach. William Lyon Mackenzie King once observed about Canada that, “if some countries have too much history, we have too much geography.” This is true of Northern Ontario, where the boreal forest covers 40 million hectares and small towns are the norm. However, Northern Ontario’s economy has been hard hit over the past several years, resulting in significant job losses in the forest industry and major economic and social shifts. While most studies of globalization focus on industrial cities in densely populated regions like Southern Ontario, this book examines the impact of global forces on the industrial centres of the boreal forest region with a reflection on the new forest industries in the Global South. The friction generated by these shifts is the essence of this study.

Suggested Reading for Pulp Friction

Ronald N., Harpelle, and Michel Beaulieu, editors, Pulp Friction: Communities and the Forest Industry in a Globalized World, Lakehead University Centre for Northern Studies, (2012)


The Big Blue

Charles Wilkins is a well-known Canadian author whose books often read like a documentary film. This is the dramatic and hilarious story of risk and survival, as well as the importance of our connections to the planet, on a human-powered journey across the ocean. In addition to Little Ship of Fools, he is the author of, among other books, Walk to New York, Paddle to the Amazon, A wilderness Called Home and In the Land of the Long Fingernails. Little Ship of Fools is the book he researched while rowing across the Atlantic with 15 other rowers. Wilkins takes the reader along for seven weeks of rationed food, extreme sleep deprivation, and life-threatening seas—as well as sharks, whales, and an ever-disintegrating boat. Little Ship of Fools is a rich and fascinating story of courage, community, the importance of risk in our lives, and the resilience and depth of the human spirit.

Suggested Reading for The Big Blue

Books by Charles Wilkins

Little Ship of Fools: Sixteen Rowers, One Improbable Boat, Seven Tumultuous Weeks on the Atlantic, Vancouver: Greystone Books, (2013)

In the Land of the Long Fingernails, Vancouver: Greystone, (2011)

Walk to New York, Toronto: Viking Canada: (2004)

A wilderness Called Home, Toronto: Penguin Canada (2002)

Paddle to the Amazon, Toronto: Prima Lifestyles, (1992)


Hard Time

 In 1972, inmates Robert Hillary King, Albert Woodbox, and Herman Wallace were put in solitary confinement in Louisiana State Penitentiary (a.k.a. Angola Prison), after being convicted under questionable circumstances for the killing of a prison guard. Because of their work organizing on behalf of the Black Panthers, Robert King spent 29 years in solitary confinement before his conviction was overturned and he was released. Wallace was released in 2013, after more than 41 years in prison, and days later of liver cancer. In November of 2014, Woodfox was released in early 2016 after 43 years in solitary. Robert King’s autobiography is an unforgettable story written in the eloquent language of a man who frequently says, “I’ve had a lot of time to think about that.” Panthers in the Hole is a graphic novel written by tyoung men who discovered the story of the Angola 3 and used their talents to write a book that served as a kind of catharsis for their lives as marginalized French citizens of North African descent.

Suggested Reading for Hard Time

Robert Hillary King, From the Bottom of the Heap: The Autobiography of Black Panther Robert Hillary King, Oakland, California: PM Press, (2008)

Bruno Cénou and David Cénou, Panthers in the Hole Los Angeles:Phoneme Media, (2016)


Citoyens du Monde/Citizens of the World

This six-part series by Les Productions Rivard, was directed by Kelly Saxberg and is part of a research by Ron Harpelle and Bruce Muirhead. The project was to write the history of Canada’s International Development Research Centre. The results of the project were the film series, an institutional history of IDRC and a collection of articles about researchers in poor countries who have dedicated their lives to finding solutions to the challenges of development. Long Term Solutions in a Short Term World features several of the researchers who appear in the film series while the history IDRC provides a reflection of the major currents in development assistance since the 1970s.

Suggested Reading for Citizens of the World

Ronald Harpelle and Bruce Muirhead, editors, Long Term Solutions in a Short Term World: Canada and Research for Development, Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, (2011).

Bruce Muirhead et Ronald Harpelle, CRDI: 40 ans d’idées, d’innovations et d’impacts, Québec: Les Presses de l’Université Laval, (2011)

Bruce Muirhead and Ronald Harpelle, IDRC: 40 years of Ideas, Innovation and Impact, Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press (2010)

See also for a website on international development. This is a website designed for classroom use and it includes a non-linear, Kosakow-driven, documentary that provides  answers to 52 questions about development. Included on the website are suggestions for classroom use and links to other materials.


Dorothea Mitchell: A Reel Pioneer and The Fatal Flower

The Lady Lumberjack is a complete collection of Dorothea Mitchell’s writings. It contains her book, Lady Lumberjack, and several short articles about her time in Northwestern Ontario during the 1910s and 20s. Dorothea Mitchell was a Canadian Pioneer of the first order. She did things that pioneering women have always done, but her pioneer experience was made more difficult by the fact that she was a single woman. Unlike other unsung heroines of the early twentieth century, we know of Dorothea’s accomplishments because she wrote about them.

“Historians often have identified Susanna Moodie or Catherine Parr Traill as advocates for women’s rights, but Beaulieu and Harpelle argue emphatically that Mitchell’s contributions are equally important. Taken as a whole, Lady Lumberjack is as entertaining as it is insightful. Dorothea Mitchell was a gifted writer, her prose at times resembling that of Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Proulx. In all likelihood readers will find themselves missing Mitchell long after they have finished reading the book. This unassuming woman captivates one with her humorous shenanigans while, at the same time, astounding one with her no-nonsense approach to everyday matters typically considered the liberty of men. Lady Lumberjack is a serious contribution to women’s history, with huge potential to inform novice and seasoned academics alike. Mitchell’s writings are ripe with examples of emerging ethnic and racial tensions, national pride and shifting gender roles. Such broader themes need only be teased from the pages. Beaulieu and Harpelle have ably shown the numbers ways in which Dorothea Mitchell stood as a symbol for all that women could achieve.”
Cheryl Desroches, Queen’s University

Suggested Reading for Dorothea Mitchell and Fatal Flower

Ronald Harpelle and Michel Beaulieu editors, The Lady Lumberjack: An Annotated Collection of Dorothea Mitchell’s Writings, Lakehead University Northern and Regional Studies Series, (2005)

See also, a website that provides a brief introduction to Dorothea Mitchell along with educational resources and a long-forgotten filmstrip that was produced by the NFB in the 1970s. This website is suitable for younger audiences and can be used to teach about the making of silent films.


Banana Split

This documentary was the product of research into the immigration and settlement of West Indians in Costa Rica between 1850 and 1950. Although the film is set in Honduras, the story of the banana industry in Central America is a repeating one. The West Indians of Costa Rica provides a detailed history of the challenges faced by a group of immigrants who were initially welcomed as labourers to work in the disease infested tropical lowlands, but then became viewed as a racial problem that threatened the White Settler identity of the country. Banana Stories is a little publication that tells the story of the banana from four perspectives. It takes a closer look at the historical, social, scientific and economic aspects of the most popular fruit in the world. This is a publication suitable for youth because it introduces the main themes of the film in a more general, but no less informative way. Edited by Ron Harpelle, this short collection of articles is downloadable in English and in French for free on this site.

Suggested Reading for Banana Split

Ronald N. Harpelle, The West Indians of Costa Rica: Race, Class and the Integration of An Ethnic Minority, Montréal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, (2001)

Harpelle, editor, Banana Stories and Histoires de Bananes

See also Bananas Unpeeled for a Global Education Curriculum based on Banana Split and developed  for the Ontario Grade 12 Canadian and World Issues Course. (Version Française)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *