Skip to main content

Where Are the Canadian Movies?

          I bet many people reading this are looking forward to upcoming movies like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, perhaps Alien: Covenant or Baywatch. But is anyone anticipating Maudie or Bon Cop Bad Cop 2? In the past few months, has anyone seen Ballerina or Goon: Last of the Enforcers?
          Last month, I watched the Canadian Screen Awards, well aware I’d seen almost none of the nominated films or television programmes. But many of them looked quite good and I wished I’d gotten the chance to see them. These are our movies after all, produced here in Canada, how come we’re not given the opportunity to see them?
          When I lived in the U.K. it was common to see British movies like Pride and Sunshine on Leith screened in the same cinemas that were showing The Maze Runner, Interstellar, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. There’s an effort over there to showcase home-grown films in larger distribution than we seem to have in Canada. Here only a handful of Canadian films get national distribution and usually when that happens they have to be sought out, reserved for special cinemas in only a few major cities or else the smallest screen for a limited time.
          There’s no shortage of Canadian movies. Plenty are screened at TIFF or other festivals but never reach wider audiences. Since hearing about it last year, I’ve been very interested in seeing Maudie, a biopic on Nova Scotian painter Maude Lewis starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke. Weirdos, Searchers, and The Other Half are a few of the movies nominated at the recent CSAs that I’d have liked the opportunity to see as well.
          The problem may be lack of interest. When Canadian films are made available they rarely make anywhere near their American cousins at the box office. Mostly they’d attract film enthusiasts or supporters of the Canadian film industry, but few others. The reason for that may be that Canada doesn’t have a culture of prominent filmmakers or performers who haven’t left for Hollywood. There are a few, but most Canadians can’t name more than half a dozen actors or directors who work mostly in Canada. And since star power still plays an important part in attracting moviegoers, this is definitely a disadvantage for Canadian films. 
          There’s also the fact that the Canadian film industry is so much smaller than the American, and thus films of the scale of a Hollywood blockbuster are almost impossible. Canada has a very diverse culture and our film output reflects that. If you type ‘Canadian movies’ into a search engine you’ll come across a bunch of French-language and Aboriginal movies like Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner and Mon oncle Antoine. But these kind of movies that are mostly indie and often subtitled, don’t gel with the public as much for the same reasons as Oscar-bait films. People would much rather see movies that are more viscerally, accessibly entertaining. And seeing as those are the biggest successes with the masses, it hurts the chances of Canadian cinema to make a mark. Not all people crave these sorts of films of course, but it’s enough of a majority to justify not releasing more home-grown cinema wide, when they’ll most likely take up theatre space and not make back much money.
          Ultimately, it comes down to the people demanding the opportunity to see Canadian movies. And because of these factors, that demand is not there. Canadian television isn’t even popular with most Canadians, why would their films be.
          And that’s really a shame because there are plenty of good Canadian movies that deserve to be seen by more audiences, whether playing in art-house theatres somewhere in Canada or on home video. Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter, but for Ian Holm’s disappearing accent, is a great film, intimately portraying the effect of a disastrous accident on a small town. David Cronenberg’s Scanners is one of the most bizarre and unique speculative horror movies you could see, creatively graphic and mysterious. Sarah Polley’s directorial debut, Away From Her, is a powerful and moving exploration of the effects of Alzheimers’ disease on a relationship. And let’s not forget a great little movie that made waves on the Awards show circuits a couple years ago: Room. That film, about a captive woman raising her son in a solitary room, won Brie Larson an Oscar.
          That’s the best place to start. If we want more attention given to Canadian movies and wider releases, we should make an effort to show interest in Canadian art. Because even though Canadian films may not be as conventionally exciting or extreme as their American counterparts, they’re still significant in a way those films are not. They’re vessels of our culture, our identity; if nothing else we can latch onto reference points we don’t get out of other movies. I guarantee there are some Canadian movies out there for any taste, and so we should find them, cultivate their relevance, so that with any luck, the next Canadian Screen Award winner will be something we’ve seen.

Popular posts from this blog

Mary Tyler Moore's Best Moments

A couple days ago, we lost the icon Mary Tyler Moore. On the Mount Rushmore of groundbreaking comediennes, Moore has an undeniable place (with Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, and Cloris Leachman). She was often the best part of the Dick Van Dyke Show, making for half of one of the greatest TV couples. Through her own series, she was a key part of one of the most important and timeless shows of all time. Her kindness, perseverance, and good humour made her a role model for all, but especially women and girls whose greater representation in media she pioneered. She was such an endearingly sweet woman, a champion of diabetes research and a great philanthropist. When watching either of her classic shows, she always felt like a good friend. And now the world has lost that friend.
          In honour of her passing, I want to highlight just some of my favourite Mary Tyler Moore moments both as Laura Petrie and Mary Richards, that attest to what a great comedic and inspirational talen…

Overlooked Specials 12th Day of Christmas

12th Day of Christmas:
Blackadder’s Christmas Carol This Christmas Day how about we dispense with the feels in favour of a mean but comedically genius one-off of Britain’s best series. Even if you’re unfamiliar with Blackadder, the series about a witty schemer reincarnated through various periods in British history, this special should still make you laugh. An inversion of A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Blackadder played of course to perfection by Rowan Atkinson is the kindest man in England which everyone uses to take advantage of him. But an encounter with a Spirit of Christmas causes him to change his ways. Most of the Blackadder cast: Atkinson, Tony Robinson as Baldrick, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, and Miranda Richardson appear here and are excellent, as are guests Miriam Margolyes, Jim Broadbent, and Robbie Coltrane in a role I’m sure inspired J.K. Rowling to request him for Hagrid. And the writing from Richard Curtis and Ben Elton is as sharp as ever. It’s relentlessly enjoyable, funny…

Overlooked Specials 10th Day of Christmas

10th Day of Christmas:
The Small One I think this was the film that first suggested Don Bluth was an animation genius. The 30-minute Disney short about a Nazarene child trying to sell his beloved old donkey Small One, has a beautiful yet unique simplicity to it. Charming, sentimental, and even dark in some places, it knows exactly how to relate the aura of Christmas without using a lot of its familiar tenets. It’s pretty obvious where the story’s going based on the setting alone, but it doesn’t stop you from wanting to see this often sad journey all the way through. No one seems to want Small One for anything that doesn’t hurt or kill him. The animation is standard Bluth greatness: stylistic, expressive, and very pretty to look at. And the music is of the tenderest. Though perhaps not as outwardly artistic as something like The Snowman, it’s more fulfilling, both narratively and emotionally. A wonderful precursor to a wonderful career, The Small One is certainly worth going out of your …