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Watch Blackfly, the NFB animation of Wade Hemsworth's classic folk song

Robert Rowat

In 1991, the National Film Board of Canada released Blackfly, a five-minute animated film by Christopher Hinton that brings to life Wade Hemsworth's classic folk song of the same name.

Hemsworth's song, written in 1949, relates his experience accompanying a crew surveying the Little Abitibi River in Northern Ontario in view of erecting a hydro-electric dam:

"'Twas early in the spring when I decided to go
To work up in the woods in North Ontario,
And the unemployment office said they'd send me through
To the Little Abitibi with the survey crew.

"And the blackflies, the little blackflies,
Always the blackfly no matter where you go,
I'll die with the blackfly a-pickin' my bones,
In North Ontar-eye-o-eye-o, In North Ontar-eye-o."

In the version of the song used in the film, backing vocals are supplied by Kate and Anna McGarrigle. Blackfly was nominated for best animated short at the 1992 Academy Awards.

For anyone currently working outdoors and battling blackflies and mosquitoes, and for everyone who got this song lodged in their head at summer camp, here's Hinton's brilliant animation:

Blackfly, Christopher Hinton, provided by the National Film Board of Canada


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