First Winter (1982)

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With the father away, an Irish immigrant family struggle to survive their first winter in the Canadian wild.


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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »


Cast overview:
Kathleen McAuliffe ...
Sharon O'Niell ...
Eric Patrick Godfrey ...
Kevin Kennedy ...


On their first winter in their new home of Canada, an Irish immigrant family is finding life a struggle at the best of times. Now, with the father away for work during the winter, the mother and the children labor for a bare existence. Then tragedy strikes and the young survivors must call upon their inner strengths to make it through the unforgiving season. Written by Kenneth Chisholm <>

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Short | Drama | History





Release Date:

October 1982 (USA)  »

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A Bare Bones Look At Life In The Early 19th Century Canadian Wilderness
26 July 2012 | by (Niagara Region, Ontario, Canada) – See all my reviews

This 26 minute short drama is a production of the National Film Board of Canada, and depicts, in rather bare bones fashion, the struggle for survival of an Irish immigrant family in the early 19th century as they battle the elements during their first winter in Canada, in the Ottawa Valley.

The bare bones is understandable. It is, after all, only 26 minutes long. So, the film gives us a sense of some of the struggles, but not really a lot of the details. The story revolves around a mother and her two children, the father having left for the winter to work in a logging camp. They deal with cold, little food, wild animals and sickness as they await the coming of spring. They find both solace and strength in their religious faith and in their culture, whose language they can now use, since it had been banned in Ireland by the British.

A lot of this is narrated by Sharon O'Niell, who plays the teenage daughter. I'd have liked to have seen it a bit longer actually, so that it could have provided a little more detail; a little more story. As it is, it's a glimpse of a very different time when life was hard and survival wasn't a given. (5/10)

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