Black River's Films

Neal Livingston

In the early part of my career as a filmmaker from 1978 to 1994 a number of my films were shown at the Museum of Modern Art New York. In 2001 I had a retrospective at the Cinematheque Québecois - rare for a Nova Scotia filmmaker, and I was the first moving image artist to be invited to show his work at the Summer Art Festival in Baie St. Paul- I think in 2000. From about 1990 to 2010 a number of my films showed on national television in Canada, and around the world in English language countries, as well as film festivals domestically and internationally in which some of those films were also award winning.

Videographe in Montréal is the distributor of much of my work alongside my own efforts to distribute my work. If you're interested to look at my work, they could supply you with DVDs, or it may be simpler to access many of my films through my website, you can look up Black River Productions,, then follow the links on the specific films web pages to Vimeo, go to “rent” a film.

My website also has examples of an interesting visual art project called Junky Old Stuff, which is designed to be gallery hung, which was an early online humorous critique of eBay, which got national media attention from CBC and the Globe and Mail, in 2003. Also the web site has photo works and TREE ART pieces.

One of the main things I've strove to do in my film work, is to not use conventional structure, and the 2016 feature documentary 100 Short Stories, is a good example of this.

I would roughly divide my film work into two categories. The first being films which employ humour and are rather eccentric, and several earlier films from the 1970s and early 80s which one can see this form developed from. For example:

  • Winter Greens
  • Suetes, (French and English versions)
  • Michel in the Suetes
  • The Paper Age and Ancient Flight
  • early films - The Beach or The Ditch and Aura Gone
The second being, political documentaries on environmental issues, related to citizens fighting government on issues in Cape Breton, and Nova Scotia, biography and social portraits of communities.
  • 100 Short Stories (English and French)
  • Suetes, (French and English versions)
  • Rudy Haase
  • The Battle at our Shores
  • Herbicide Trials (NFB)
  • Budworks


Neal Livingston's Filmography

Winter Greens
Can you garden in the winter? Is this the start of the Snow food movement? An hilarious short film, placed amidst food culture and the slow food movement, mocks self help, social media, and the do it yourself ethic, ranging through various humour types from who’s fooling who to self deprecation.

100 Short Stories
An award-winning feature length documentary, 100 SHORT STORIES, documents the battle at Lake Ainslie, and Neal's travails that eventually led to Black River Wind Limited developing a 6MW wind energy project. The film mixes the stories of fossil fuels and renewable energy, with those of predatory capitalism.

Rudy Haase
Rudy Haase is Black River Productions newest film completed in 2007 after 3 years in the making. It is a biography about Canada's great unknown environmentalist, Rudy Haase, who turned 85 in 2007. Haase's life long work has included many successful campaigns and preservation of wilderness. He was a close colleague of the famous American back-to-the-land gurus, Helen and Scott Nearing. Haase is a colleague and friend of Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, who is shown in the film over a period of 30 years. The film is also a primer on environmentalism.

Still from One Day a September 11th story

In 2002 Livingston released One Day a September 11th story. It is an experimental documentary dealing with the events of the tragedy in New York City. The filmmakers dialogue is about visiting New York City before and after the disaster-with footage taken years ago in the World Trade Centre, at the end of September 2001, and in January 2002. One Day portrays two New Yorkers exploring lower Manhattan, seeing the burning ruins, talking of their feelings of the event, and a public memorial by a Navajo spiritual elder. One Day received an Honourable Mention award at the Earthvision 2003 Festival in Santa Cruz, California.

Environmental Films

Neal Livingston's concern with environmental issues led him to become an activist and
to produce political documentaries on environmental issues. These include:

Still from Toxic Partners

The Battle At Our Shores, 2002 an award-winning incisive, yet humorous, documentary which examines opposition to the first inshore and coastal oil and gas exploration licenses in Nova Scotia.

Toxic Partners (1999), narrated by David Suzuki, concerns two communities with toxic waste sites; Sydney, Nova Scotia and Fort Valley, Georgia, and the human suffering caused by this pollution.

The Cape Breton Endangered Spaces (1990), is a video shot from the air in south-western Cape Breton Island, documenting massive clear-cutting of old-growth forests.

Still from Herbicide Trials

His most famous and controversial film Herbicide Trials (1984) examined the social, political, legal, and environmental battle against the aerial spraying of herbicides on Nova Scotia's forests.

Budworks (1978) is a film which takes a stand against the aerial spraying of insecticides on New Brunswick's forests, and the citizen action in Nova Scotia that stopped a planned spraying program there.

The award winning Suête Films

Exploring narrative in a sometimes whimsical, sometimes evocative and
always entertaining fashion his recent films in this area include:

Still from Suête

Suêtes (1999), and Michel in a Suête (1998).
Both films document the reality of the hurricane force wind storms that batter the North West Coast of Cape Breton Island. Suêtes is equal parts meteorological documentary and humourous anecdotes, while the award winning Michel in the Suête is about one man's hilarious battle against the wind. Suêtes was profiled in January 2000 across the USA on NPR radio, and both films have been broadcast nationally on television across Canada.

Film Portraits

Livingston has also produced a series of film portraits which profile unconventional people and
their passionate pursuits. These include:

Still from The Paper Age and Ancient Flight

The Paper Age and Ancient Flight (1992), an examination of the ideas of amateur British Egyptologist William Deiches who believed the ancients knew how to fly, and who has built hundreds of models of ancient aircraft.

The Disappearance of John Ashby (1990), who never came back from a trip to New York City.

John Dunsworth: The Candidate (1989), the Trailer Park Boys alumnus running for the NDP.

John Nesbitt: Sculptor (1987), a portrait of this remarkable Canadian sculptor.

Films about Water Power

Livingston's personal experiences in building a small hydro operation for his own use led him to produce two films focusing on the resurgence of small water power as a renewable energy form.

Water Power (1981) is a how to, and history of micro-hydro.

A Portrait of Small Hydro (1983) documents some of the first new small hydro developers in New England.

History and Social Justice

An interest in history and social justice lead him to produce two films, which you can order on DVD like all others:

Still from Both Sides of the Wire

Both Sides of the Wire (1993), a 47 minute documentary film about what has become of a group of refugees from Nazi oppression who were imprisoned in Canada in 1940.

Mabou Fights Back (1992) documents the amazing story of an entire community that fought Canada Post to try to retain its postal service.

Experimental Films

In his many years as a filmmaker Livingston has also produced a diverse album of respected experimental films which include:

Snow on the Lake, (2000): Snow blows over a frozen lake in a frigid winter landscape.

Licking the Window (1995): a psychedelic road movie.

Trees and Elevators (1990): four seasons of rural Cape Breton Island and urban images of Halifax, Nova Scotia.