So, what does a “distinctly Canadian” movie entail? Only a few weeks ago did I decide to find out by venturing into downtown Vancouver and take part in the Film Festival! I gathered a group together and we went to see a film called “Moving Day”. Because I hadn’t recently seen any movies labelled “distinctly Canadian”, I didn’t quite know what to expect. This is the entire surface story in a nutshell:
A divorced man lives alone and works for a moving company. His dreams are to quit his current job and work for a construction crew in the city, where he will have to flip signs for oncoming traffic, while making twice as much pay. In the end, he finds the courage to quit his job, and manages to get hired by his dream job.
Of course, this story has a few sub plots – the man’s co-workers all have their own problems and the boss is a creep, but that’s basically it. Almost 2 hours of…talking. After the movie finished, my “international” friend leaned over and stated: “That was a Canadian film? Nothing cool happened. Where was the entertainment?” And you know what? He was right – to an extent. The movie we saw had no elements of flashy; it had no high-action sequences, no computer graphics, no elaborate and grandiose soundtrack. In other words, it just didn’t have the budget to be an American film!
I find that those who are trapped in the clutches of Hollywood would look upon Canadian movies with great disdain – spit on their plots for not having explosions, or super-powers, or gory fight scenes. But there are a great many details, I find, that Hollywooders overlook when they see a Canadian film for the first time:
1. Superb acting
I find that the Canadian films I have seen display excellent acting talent. We’re absorbed into the characters, their development, their conflicts, resolutions, everything! The characters in Canadian movies are believable! In many cases they are far superior to Hollywood. I don’t know about you, but every time I see a movie with acting talents such as Vin Deisel or Megan Fox, I find myself cringing.
2. Canadian films show Canadian values
Bits of culture are littered everywhere in a Canadian production. I can remember seeing distinctive road signs, poutine, Canadian bus lines, $20 bills with the queen on the front. I almost yelped with joy when I watched a character pop a Molson Canadian out of his fridge. I thought – when do you ever get to see that – Molson, in an actual movie? Also, many of the characters wear toques and warm jackets – specifically, lumber-jack plaid. I think Canadian films tend to make fun of themselves…which really doesn’t help the Canadian stereotype. But hey, at least Canada can have a good laugh at itself! Overall, the Canadian film atmosphere has such a different feeling that it’s actually a relief!
3. It’s all about the story
Because Canadian films can’t depict thousands of people killing themselves with endless amounts of weaponry, they typically like to focus on the storyline. This is why you’ll find Canadian productions have a lot of talking – characters are being developed to further create a story. Almost always will you find that while all of America’s production money goes to CGI, Canada will put its money to a light story on the outside but deep morals on the inside. Canadian movies make you think about life – its ups and its downs. Their stories are real. They depict real situations and real events. They make us ponder our own lives. I find this is something Hollywood should take some lessons on!
I am going to leave you now with some advice – go out and watch more Canadian films! Why do I say this? Because Canadian films are a HUGE reminder of who we are as a nation – our cultural values, beliefs, and commodities! Some people say that Canadian culture has been drowned by the U.S., but I assure you, it has not. If you want to see how different Canada is from the rest of world, get out there and watch a good ol’ Canadian movie! Trust me, you will see it clearly.
And, while Canadian films may not be easy to find anywhere online, there are numerous cinemas right here in downtown Vancouver that are showing them. One, in particular, is the International Village Cinema (formerly Tinseltown). You can be sure to get a decent dose of Canadian culture there. Enjoy!