(b. May 8, 1945 Montreal, Quebec)
A skilled documentarian with a great eye for detail and the ability to penetrate and deconstruct stereotypes, Beverly Shaffer has won more than thirty international awards in her twenty-five years with the National Film Board.
After graduating with a B.A. in comparative religion and philosophy from McGill University in Montreal in 1967, Shaffer taught high school for two years and then earned a Master’s degree in filmmaking from Boston University. Upon graduating in 1971, she remained in Boston and worked as a production assistant, researcher and associate producer on Emmy Award-winning science and public affairs programmes at the PBS flagship station WGBH-TV.
She joined the NFB’s newly formed Studio D in 1975 after her proposal for a series of short documentaries about children was approved by Studio D head Kathleen Shannon. The ten films in the delicate and sensitive direct cinema series Children of Canada (1975-78) included I’ll Find a Way (1977), about nine-year-old Nadia DeFranco’s struggle with spina bifida, which won an Academy Award® for Best Documentary Short.
To a Safer Place (1987) won awards for its uplifting story of an incest survivor in her thirties who succeeded in building a fulfilling life after years of abuse. More recently, Shaffer directed seven instalments for the Board’s Children of Jerusalem, a series that explored questions of identity and cultural conflict through profiles of Arab and Jewish youth. She also made the sensitive Just a Wedding (1999), a docudrama sequel to I’ll Find a Way that follows the story of DeFranco’s romance and marriage.
Film and video work includes
My Friends Call Me Tony, 1975 (director)
My Name Is Susan Yee, 1975 (director)
Beautiful Lennard Island, 1977 (director)
Gurdeep Singh Bains, 1977 (director)
Kevin Alec, 1977 (director)
Veronica, 1977 (director)
Benoît, 1978 (director; producer)
Julie O'Brien, 1981 (director)
It's Just Better, 1982 (director)
The Way It Is, 1982 (director)
I Want to Be an Engineer, 1983 (director)
Discussions in Bioethics: Who Should Decide?, 1985 (director)
To a Safer Place, 1987 (director; co-producer with Gerry Rogers)
Half the Kingdom, 1989 (co-producer with Francine E. Zuckerman)
Children of Jerusalem: Tamar, 1991 (director; co-producer with Colin Neale)
Children of Jerusalem: Asya, 1992 (director; co-producer with Colin Neale)
Children of Jerusalem: Neveen, 1992 (director; co-producer with Colin Neale)
Children of Jerusalem: Yacoub, 1992 (director; co-producer with Colin Neale)
Children of Jerusalem: Yehuda, 1994 (director; producer)
Children of Jerusalem: Gesho, 1996 (director; producer)
Children of Jerusalem: Ibrahim, 1996 (director; producer)
Just a Wedding, 1999 (director)
To my birthmother..., 2002 (director; co-producer with Mark Zannis)
Mr. Mergler's Gift, 2004 (director)