(Un autre pays)
Format: 35mm Black & White
Runtime: 69 min
National Film Board of Canada
Drylanders, the National Film Board’s first English-language feature, is an epic story of the hardships faced by settlers attempting to farm the dry land of the Canadian prairies at the beginning of the twentieth century. Husband and wife Dan Greer (James B. Douglas) and Liza Greer (Frances Hyland) trek west to Saskatchewan to settle and farm a piece of land. They begin by building a sod house with the help of the neighbouring MacPhersons. Even though the Greers’ first harvest is flattened by hail, they gradually come to prosper during the twenties. The film follows them over the course of thirty years as they struggle to survive bitterly cold winters, scorching hot summers, unrelenting drought and the Great Depression.
Produced at a cost of $200,000, Drylanders is a fictionalized documentary comparable to earlier French-language productions in the Panoramique series (especially Bernard Devlin’s Les Brûlés) and dramas in the English-language Perspective series. It was shot mostly in the summer of 1961, but because of numerous delays did not premiere until September 1963. It was not released widely until 1964, by which time its running time was reduced from ninety-five to sixty-nine minutes.
Drylanders was intensely promoted during its release and was modestly successful at the box office. However, it reportedly only recovered a third of its production costs. Drylanders echoes so many earlier Canadian films – both fiction and documentary – that it almost falls into self�€'parody. The film is technically flawless and Hyland gives a remarkable performance, but Haldane's direction is too pedestrian to do justice to either the intimacy of the family's drama or the epic quality of the theme.