The Fogo Process

“Challenge for Change” was a program that allowed communities to use film as a catalyst for social change.

Fogo Island has a long history with film. The Island was the location of a legendary community filmmaking project in the late 1960s, known worldwide as The Fogo Process. The Fogo Process emerged from the National Film Board’s “Challenge for Change” program which used film to promote community collaboration and social change. The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) and Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Extension Service visited Fogo Island to give light and voice to Fogo Island’s individual communities that were struggling with the collapse of the inshore fishery. Facing the impending threat of government resettlement, Fogo Islanders had to quickly develop a system of collaboration that had never before existed on the Island, in order to work through the loss of the traditional fishery and hold on to their home.

Filmmaker Colin Low, community worker Fred Earle, and head of Memorial University’s Extension Service Donald Snowden worked from a shared vision. Colin Low made 27 short films documenting life on Fogo Island, and subsequently screened his films for the Island’s residents. For the first time, Fogo Islanders saw that all of the Island’s communities were facing similar issues and challenges. Watching their fellow Islanders speak on film helped sparked new dialogues across previously divisive community lines. The collaborative spirit engendered by The Fogo Process films and by the newly formed Fogo Island Improvement Committee eventually lead to the formation of the Fogo Island fishing Co-op. The Co-op, owned by local fishers and plant workers, spearheaded the adaptation to the midshore fishery and continues to exist as a mainstay of the economy to this day.

Shorefast and Fogo Island Inn continue to believe that art and film have key roles to play in telling our stories, and preserving traditional knowledge and culture. Shorefast has recognized this history of collaboration through art and film through the establishment of Fogo Island Arts, and by partnering with the National Film Board on the Fogo Island Inn’s digital cinema. The Inn’s Cinema is the first theatre to exist on the Island, and marks the return of the NFB to Fogo Island to honour a longstanding commitment to the community that ultimately put the “Challenge for Change” program on the map.