Beverly Shaffer

  • Years at WGBH: 1971-1976
  • Positions: Researcher, The Reporters; Associate producer, ZOOM; Production assistant, NOVA; Production assistant, The Advocates

From Beverly Shaffer

Beverly ShafferBiography

Beverly Shaffer’s internationally-respected films have garnered over 40 awards during her career at the National Film Board, including an Oscar® for her sensitive portrayal of a disabled young girl in I’ll Find a Way (1978). The film is one of ten titles in Shaffer’s Children of Canada series which looks at children of varied backgrounds, cultures and lifestyles from across Canada.

Shaffer’s most recent film, Mr. Mergler’s Gift is a moving account of a student and her mentor, and a lyrical reflection on the transcendent power of music. Xin Ben is the young student pianist, the 9-year-old daughter of Chinese immigrants. A fateful encounter in a Montreal park has delivered her into the hands of Mr Mergler, a piano teacher nearing the end of his long career. She will be his last and most extraordinary pupil.

Mr. Mergler’s Gift, is a finely crafted film.  It tells a story that touches many of us … the story of death and the gifts of life, and the role of special teachers in our lives.

Shaffer’s To My Birthmother (2002), follows Marie Klaassen in her search for her biological mother. Adopted at birth, Marie’s quest to unravel the mystery of her origins and identity opens a Pandora’s Box of secrets and surprises.. At its premiere at the 26th Montreal World Film Festival, the Globe and Mail hailed To My Birthmother as an “emotionally jarring odyssey”.

Just a Wedding, the sequel to the Oscar®-winning I’ll Find A Way, was completed in 1999. In Just A Wedding, Shaffer and Nadia DeFranco, the star of I’ll Find A Way, collaborate to tell the romantic story of Nadia’s courtship and marriage to Dennis Sweet, a man she met on the Internet. Pushing the boundaries of the documentary form, Shaffer uses dramatic re-enactments featuring the film’s subjects in the starring roles. “Shaffer has found a true life character that Hollywood can only dream of,” wrote the Globe and Mail.

Other Shaffer credits include the Children of Jerusalem series, produced between 1991 and 1996, focusing on the lives of seven Palestinian and Israeli children. Shaffer portrays the hopes, dreams and realities of children on different sides of the Middle East conflict. The series shows that although the subjects live within one mile of each other in the holy and much-contested city of Jerusalem, their lives are such that they can barely imagine life on the other side.

To a Safer Place (1987), which Shaffer directed and co-produced, is a powerful one-hour documentary about a survivor of incest. To a Safer Place was telecast on the CBC, the BBC and the PBS program “Frontline.” Widely used by social workers and incest survivors, To a Safer Place was recognized by the American Film Librarians Association as one of the best films of the decade.

Shaffer is NFB producer of Francine E. Zuckerman and Roushell Goldstein’s film, Half the Kingdom (1989), a film about Jewish women challenging assumptions as to their place in traditional Judaism.

Although the bulk of her work has been in the documentary genre, Shaffer has at times turned her talents to drama. These include the half-hour drama The Way It Is (1982), about a young girl’s reaction to her parents’ divorce; Who Should Decide? (1985), one of eight short dramas in the Discussions in Bioethicsseries.

I Want to Be an Engineer (1983) is a half-hour documentary profiling three women engineers, produced by the NFB in collaboration with several Canadian federal agencies.

Before joining the National Film Board of Canada, Ms Shaffer worked at the flagship PBS station WGBH-TV in Boston on the Emmy award-winning series NOVA and ZOOM. She received her master’s degree in film from Boston University in 1971.

Awards

Children of Canada series

Benoît
  • Grand Prize, 3rd International Festival of Films for Children and Young People, Lausanne, Switzerland, 1981.
  • Best Children’s Film, International Short Film and Video Festival, Yorkton, Saskatchewan, Canada, 1979.
I’ll Find a Way
  • AMER Silver Eye Award, Personal Courage Category, 1st Annual AMER Film Awards, Dubuque, Iowa, USA, 1979.
  • Award of Excellence given by The Film Advisory Board Incorporated, Los Angeles, California, USA, 1978.
  • Best Documentary Film, International Short Film Festival, Tampere, Finland, 1979.
  • Best Film About Children – Best Overall Children’s Film, Childfilm Festival of the Canadian Association for Young Children, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, 1978.
  • Bronze Venus Medallion, Category 21: Educational for Children, Greater Miam International Film Festival, Miami, Florida, USA, 1978.
  • Film recommended for its special interest for teenagers by the International Jury, 16th International Cinema Contest for Children and Teenagers, Gijon, Spain, 1978.
  • In Nomination, Short Factual Film Category, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, London, England, 1979.
  • Oscar®, Documentary Short Category, 50th Annual Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Hollywood, California, USA, 1978.
  • RAI Award, 10th International Cinema Festival for Children and Young People, Salerno, Italy, 1980.
  • Silver Medal, Short and Medium Length (Health) Category, 8th International Festival of Red Cross and Health Films, Varna, Bulgaria, 1979.
It’s Just Better
  • Honourable Mention, Non-traditional Families Category, 16th Annual National Council on Family Relations Film Awards, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, 1984.
My Friends Call Me Tony
  • Best of the Film Festival, 8th Annual Film Festival on the Exceptional Individual, Los Angeles, USA, 1978.
  • Silver Water Jug, Documentary Category, International Festival of Films for Children and Teenagers, Lausanne, Switzerland, 1977.

Children of Jerusalem series

Asya
  • Bronze Plaque Award, Social Issues Category, 42nd Annual International Film and Video Festival, Columbus, Ohio, USA, 1994.
Neveen
  • Bronze Plaque Award, Social Issues Category, 42nd Annual International Film and Video Festival, Columbus, Ohio, USA, 1994.
Tamar
  • Bronze Plaque Award, Social Issues Category, 42nd Annual International Film and Video Festival, Columbus, Ohio, USA, 1994.
  • Silver Apple Award, Portraits of Places and Communities – Middle School, 24th National Educational Film and Video Festival, Oakland, California, USA, 1994.
Yacoub
  • Honourable Mention, Social Issues Category, 42nd Annual International Film and Video Festival, Columbus, Ohio, USA, 1994.
  • Silver Apple Award, Portraits of Places and Communities – Middle School, 24th National Educational Film and Video Festival, Oakland, California, USA, 1994.
  • Special Jury Award, 30th Short Film and Video Festival, Yorkton, Saskatchewan, Canada, 1994.
Half the Kingdom
  • Red Ribbon Award, Philosophy and Religion Category, Individuals and Communities, 33rd American Film and Video Festival, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, 1991.
I Want to Be an Engineer
  • Certificate of Creative Excellence, 17th Annual U.S. Industrial Film Festival, Elmhurst, Illinois, USA, 1984.
The Way It Is
  • Honourable Mention, 16th Annual National Council on Family Relations Film Festival, Minneapolis, Minn., USA, 1984.
  • Learning A-V Award for Outstanding Educational Film, Learning A-V Magazine, Palo Alto, Cal., USA, 1984.

To a Safer Place

  • “Best of the 80’s,” Booklist Magazine, Van Nuys, California, USA, 1989.
  • Blue Ribbon Award, Family Relations Category, 30th American Film and Video Festival, New York, New York, USA, 1988.
  • Certificate of Merit cum laude, Medicanale Internationale, Medical and Scientific Film Festival, Parma, Italy, 1989.
  • Chris Statuette Award, Health and Medicine – Rape/Sexual Abuse Category, 36th, Columbus International Film Festival, Columbus, Ohio, USA, 1988.
  • Crystal Apple Award, 19th National Education Film and Video Festival, Oakland, California, USA, 1988.
  • Emily Award, Best Film of Festival, 30th American Film and Video Festival, New York, New York, USA, 1988.
  • First Place – Gold Award, Family Dynamics Category, John Muir Medical Film Festival, Walnut Creek, California, USA, 1988.
  • Gold Award, Theatrical Feature Film – Documentary Category, 11th Annual International Film and Video Festival, Houston, Texas, 1989.

Who Will Decide?

One of eight films in the Discussions in Bioethics series

  • Best Film Series, Health and Medical Issues Category, 30th San Francisco International Film Festival, San Francisco, USA, 1987.
  • Gold Award (for entire series), Documentary Category, 9th Annual International Film Festival, Houston, Texas, USA, 1987.

Just A Wedding

  • First Prize, International Disability Film Festival (IDFA), Moscow, Russia.2002
  • Honourable Mention, Picture This Film Festival, Calgary, Alberta, 2002
  • Best Disability Documentary of 2002, Disability World Magazine

To My Birthmother

  • Bronze Plaque, Columbus International Film and Video Festival, Columbus, Ohio, 2002.
  • Leonard Prize, International Medical and Scientific Film Festival, Parma Italy.2003

Mr Mergler’s Gift

  • 2nd Prize Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, Chicago, U.S.A. 2005
  • Honorable Mention, Reel World Film Festival, Toronto, Canada, 2006

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