Finding Macpherson follows NFB animator Martine Chartrand (Black Soul) as she delves into the life of Frank Macpherson, a Jamaican man who immigrated to Quebec and was the real-life inspiration behind the Felix Leclerc song “Macpherson” about a black, jazz singing log driver. For Chartrand, a young black girl adopted into a white, Quebecois family, this song marked a touchstone for her own personal identity. The film combines footage shot with Chartrand in the process of animating her own film on Frank Macpherson, as well as archival photos and films, and animated sequences by Chartrand.

Director Serge Giguère spent 10 years making this film, and has done a fine job of shaping a very lean and fascinating documentary out of what must have been a glut of material. The way in which the lives of Macpherson and Chartrand appear to dovetail as we move through the story is a quintessential distillation of the magic of documentary filmmaking. The broad strokes of this story beg for an “NFB doc” to be made on the subject, but the detective work—what the research turns up—is far more interesting and important than the story of a black log driver. Now, if only Chartrand, herself, made more than one beautiful movie every 10 years!