Selwyn Jacob

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Selwyn Jacob is a Canadian documentary filmmaker whose work has often explored the experiences of Black Canadians as well as other stories from Canada's multicultural communities, as both as an independent director and since 1997 as a producer with the National Film Board of Canada (NFB).

Originally from Trinidad, Jacob attended a teacher’s college there before travelling to Canada in 1968 to complete a Bachelor of Education at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. While in Edmonton, he was influenced and mentored by film producer, author and broadcaster Fil Fraser. After graduation, Jacob completed a master's degree in film studies at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.[1][2]


It was while teaching in Lac La Biche, Alberta in the late 1970s that Jacob had the idea for his first film: a documentary about black immigrants from Oklahoma who settled in Amber Valley, Alberta, which after several years of research was completed as We Remember Amber Valley (1984). Jacob has stated that at the time he was the only Afro-Canadian film director in the province of Alberta.[1][2]

Jacob's subsequent directorial credits include The Saint from North Battleford (1989), a portrait of Rueben Mayes; Carol’s Mirror (1991), an educational film about racism and equality; Al Tasmin, a film about Canada's oldest mosque; and The Road Taken (1996), a documentary about the history of Black railway porters, which received the Canada Award from the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television.[2][3][4]


Jacob's interest in Black Canadian non-fiction storytelling continued as NFB producer, supplemented by a notable range of films by Asian Canadian filmmakers from Canada's western provinces, exploring their communities' culture and histories, as well. His NFB producing credits include The Journey of Lesra Martin, about Lesra Martin, a Canadian youth who helped to free Rubin “Hurricane” Carter from prison; Jeni LeGon: Living in a Great Big Way (1999), a portrait of Jeni Le Gon, a Vancouver resident who had been one of the first Black women entertainers in Hollywood to sign a long-term contract with a major Hollywood studio; John McCrae’s War: In Flanders Fields (1998), a look at Canadian army doctor John McCrae, who wrote the poem, “In Flanders Fields”; Colleen Leung's Letters from Home (2001); Linda Ohama's Obachan's Garden (2001); Ling Chiu's From Harling Point (2003), about the first Chinese cemetery in Canada; Eunhee Cha's A Tribe of One (2003); and Mighty Jerome (2010), a documentary film about African-Canadian track star Harry Jerome directed by Charles Officer.[2][5][6]

In 2014, Jacobs produced Ninth Floor, directed by Mina Shum. The film documents a 1969 Montreal student protest against racism known as the Sir George Williams Affair, and was filmed in Montreal on the 45th anniversary of the event. It was an event Jacob had been aware of at the time, as a number of its participants had been from Trinidad—including one from his home village—and Jacob has stated that it was always his intention to make a film about the incident.[2][7][8]


  1. ^ a b Turner, Patricia (27 December 2011). "Exclusive interview with Selwyn Jacob: The Producer of the documentary on Harry Jerome". Mega Diversities. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Korchinsky, Candace. "Selwyn Jacob – Storyteller, Filmmaker". BEdition. Faculty of Education, University of Alberta. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  3. ^ Beard, William; Jerry White (2002). "Training the nation/s: The Road Taken". North of everything: English-Canadian cinema since 1980. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press. pp. 88–90. ISBN 0-88864-398-5. 
  4. ^ Beard & White, note 16, pp. 96-97
  5. ^ McRae, Ricardo (19 January 2011). "Selwyn Jacob". Who's Who in Black Canada. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  6. ^ Ouchi, Mieko (14 October 2004). "Albertasia: Asian Canadian Films on the Prairies". In Elaine Chang. Reel Asian: Asian Canada on Screen. Coach House Books. p. 175. ISBN 978-1552451922. 
  7. ^ Sevunts, Levon (15 January 2016). "Documentary seeks to heal wounds left by landmark protest". Radio Canada International. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 15 January 2016. 
  8. ^ Brownstein, Bill. "The view from The Ninth Floor". Montreal Gazette. 20 February 2014. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 

External links[edit]