Portia White: Think on Me

by Sylvia Hamilton
The story of Portia White, the legendary Canadian female artist who led a very unconventional life in the 1940's and who enjoyed unrivaled success until her career faltered.
2000  ·  50m  ·  Canada
About the Film

Nova Scotia filmmaker Sylvia Hamilton had always been fascinated by the name ‘Portia White’. She had grown up hearing about this Canadian artist who made a name for herself in the 1940’s: the singer they had called “Canada’s Marian Anderson”. Yet, beyond knowing her name, she realized like many others, she did not really know much about this enigmatic figure.

There was no autobiography, no biography or film to turn to find out more.  Hamilton set out on a rescue mission, and to satisfy her curiosity. The result of her extensive research is a full-length thorough and passionate documentary titled, “Portia White: Think On Me”. “”Portia White: Think On Me” is the first major work about this legendary Canadian female artist who led a very unconventional life in the 1940’s and who during her time, enjoyed unrivaled success until her career faltered.

Shot in Halifax, Toronto and Detroit, the film features rare archival footage of Portia White performing and interviews with family members, and with colleagues and students, such as Canadian performers Dinah Christie and Judith Lander, who after many years still remain inspired by her. The sound track features a large selection of original recorded music from White’s varied repertoire.

Upcoming Screenings

Stay tuned for upcoming screenings!

Sylvia Hamilton
Sylvia Hamilton
Sylvia Hamilton
Associate/Line Producer
Aderonke Akande
Director of Photography
Kent Nason
Picture Editor
Angela Baker
Sound Editor
John Rosborough
Original music track of Portia White in performance
About the Director

Sylvia Hamilton

Sylvia Hamilton

Sylvia D. Hamilton is a multi awarding Nova Scotian filmmaker and writer who is known for her documentary films as well as her publications, public presentations and extensive volunteer work with artistic, social and cultural organizations on the local and national levels.  She was born in Beechville, Nova Scotia, a community founded by the Black Refugees from the War of 1812. She has a BA from Acadia University, an MA from Dalhousie University and has been awarded three honourary degrees in recognition of her work. From 2001- 2004 she held Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax. She has taught at Acadia University and given lectures at the University of New Brunswick, Memorial, Queens, York and Simon Fraser universities, and at Middlebury College in Vermont, and the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica.

Prior to becoming involved in the film industry she worked in cable television, as a radio journalist and as a freelance broadcaster. She worked with the National Film Board’s Studio D in Montreal where she co-created New Initiatives in Film (NIF), the first specific program of its kind designed to provide opportunities for women of colour and First Nations from women from across Canada to make films. As Chair of the Women in Media Foundation (formerly the WTN Foundation) she lead the creation of technical training programs for girls and women in the television/film industry. She was a member of the Second Racial Equity Advisory Committee to the Canada Council (REAC) that advocated major policy changes to ensure that artists of colour would have equal access to Council grants and programs. As a recent member of the Content Advisory Committee (CAC) to the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights, she championed the idea and executive produced the final Video Report for the CAC.

She has served on and chaired a range of film and arts related juries at the national and provincial levels.  Her memberships include the Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC) and the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (WFNS). Her films have been broadcast on CBC, TVO and the Knowledge Network and are in wide use in schools and universities across Canada.  She has been an invited filmmaker and keynote speaker in venues throughout Canada, and in Oslo, Freetown (Sierra Leone), Guadeloupe, the République de Mauritius), San Francisco, New York, Mexico City and Paris.  Major awards include a Gemini, Nova Scotia’s Portia White Prize for Excellence in the Arts, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation’s Maeda Prize, the Progress Women of Excellence Award for Arts and Culture and the CBC Television Pioneer Award. She was a 2008 Mentor with The Trudeau Foundation. In addition to making film through her company Maroon Films Inc, she currently holds the Rogers Chair in Communications at the University of King’s College School of Journalism in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Photo Credit: Nick Pearce