Time for a confession. Maybe I am not the best person to be talking about what makes for Good Canadian Cinema. The truth is that I grew up mostly in the United States. I grew up in Boston and have only lived in Canada for 5 years now. A lot of the films, I doubt I can really put into any greater sort of cultural context and for that I am sorry. I really can't speak on what makes the films selected for this series part of a national identity or even why they are particularly culturally relevant. All I can talk about is their merit as films, and in the end, isn't that what matters anyway?
I know that when the idea was first floated to run such a series at the Underground, it was the start of a bet and nothing more. Alex (our lead programmer and concession stand-ista) thought that good films made in Canada could do well. Nigel (our day to day guy and general devil's advocate) thought the whole idea was more or less a waste of time. No matter how well we had promoted Canadian content in the past, no one had showed up.
Take for example one of the first films ever played at the Underground, Hard Core Logo. When I created the polling system for people to determine what films they wanted to see, there was a great deal of discussion as to whether or not to play it again or even include it in the poll since the last time we played it maybe 12 people showed up across 3 days. Fubar, which we played in advance of the sequel's premiere at TIFF played to exactly 6 people, and on the first day it wouldn't have run at all if three people didn't show up at the last possible second.
The poll was created to determine what Canadian films were most likely to draw an audience. We all know that in this digital age, films are so easy to come by that it is hard to get people out to see archival films in a cinema, so we wanted to listen to the customers to see what they wanted. The bet is still on, but the odds are stacked in the favour of a decent turnout.
The topic of what exactly constituted Canadian cinema was a heated debate from time to time that I generally avoided. Granted, while this is my adopted country and I wouldn't trade living here for living anywhere else, I just don't entirely see films as Canadian or American. Film is an artform that belongs to the world, and the films that fare the worst are the ones that try way too hard to fit into one singular culture. Personally I think a film like Score: A Hockey Musical is just as insipid to a culture as any flag waving American baiting action film. Score was actually the genesis for this bet when the film debuted at 12th place at the Canadian box office.
Films really should be made for the world. This isn't to say that a film needs to shy away from politics or issues, but the underlying message should be universal in nature. The films chosen definitely seem to reflect my feelings on the subject.
Then there is the whole issue of "where does the money come from?" Everyone castigated me for defending Porky's (one of our selections) as Can-con because it was more of a hit in the States than anywhere else. At the same time, arguments were made that the new highest grossing "Canadian" film is Resident Evil: Afterlife simply because it was produced by a famous Canadian producer who ended up using very little Canadian money to fund the production (which is mostly British-German-American in nature). It was at this point that I just gave this argument a wide berth because my head began to hurt with how backwards and cyclical everyone's thinking was. My own included.
I am going to talk about movies the way they were meant to be talked about. On their own merits. Throughout the course of the week, I will also be inviting guests to write about these films in a similar manner.
But I also want to hear from you guys and post your reactions to what you think Good Canadian Cinema is. Does it exist? Is it alive or dead? Let me know. Send your reactions to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will accumulate the best responses into a final summary post to be posted here on Sunday.
In addition, anyone who responds BEFORE 11:59pm on WEDNESDAY will be entered into a random draw to win a pair of passes to every screening during our Good Canadian Cinema weekend. Two runners up will receive a pair of passes to any Good Canadian Cinema screening of their choosing.
Good luck and I really hope to hear from you. Come out and support not just good Canadian cinema, but some of the best films that have been made in recent memory.