What To Watch On National Canadian Film Day
On National Canadian Film Day Hollywood Suite is turning its programming over entirely to Canadian films and highlighting some of the most fun, unique and thrilling movies Canada has to offer. (Check out the full collection here.)
A country as large as Canada has many wildly different stories to tell and this is reflected well throughout our film history. The breathtaking Northern epics of Zacharias Kunuk, the dark west coast of Lynne Stopkewich and the portraits of maritime life by artists like Gordon Pinsent show that the distinctiveness of the Canadian landscape breeds unique viewpoints and stories.
It’s in this diversity where Canadian film really holds its own on the world stage. It may be hard to argue what Canadian film is but the fact that Canada has such a distinct and unique population aids it greatly when it comes to the stories we tell. Indigenous filmmakers like Alanis Obomsawin and Jeff Barnaby highlight Aboriginal resistance and the need for truth and reconciliation. Quebec’s unique and powerful french-language industry tells stories that continue to push boundaries with filmmakers like Xavier Dolan and Denis Côté making big splashes on the international scene. Plenty of filmmakers like Deepa Mehta and Atom Egoyan were born outside of Canada and have taken their unique perspective to create some of the most powerful Canadian films. And of course the landscape (and a few tax credits) have created unique co-productions that allow Canada to dip into more commercial and genre filmmaking.
Having all of these different options can be as daunting as it is exciting, so I’ve taken the liberty of choosing a few favorites we’re airing so you can make your own Cancon Movie Marathon that touches on the different kinds of films that every Canadian should try.
- Last Night (1998). Don Mckellar’s “end of the world” comic drama gets together some of the best talent Canada has to offer, including Sandra Oh, Callum Keith Rennie, Tracy Wright and a career-best performance by Rabid and Eastern Promises director David Cronenberg. This movie is full of funny and emotional surprises and takes time to explore grief and a very Canadian apocalypse from every angle imaginable.
- Monsieur Lazhar (2011). File this one under “movies you may need right now” as this story follows an Algerian refugee posing as a substitute teacher in Quebec helping a group of traumatized elementary school students. While it sounds like the plot of something more straightforward like Hockey Night, this film challenges hard topics surrounding grief and immigration in Canada but also leaves you with an uplifting sense of how good humanity can be. Philippe Falardeau does an amazing job adapting Evelyne de la Chenelière’s play and Algerian comedian Fellag lights up the screen as the titular teacher bringing a heartbreaking nuance to the complex character.
- Goin' Down The Road (1970). Donald Shebib’s tale of two Maritime boys trying to make it in the big city is a classic of English Canadian film for a reason. Its ubiquitous nature has made it the butt of a few jokes but this movie is darker and more naturalistic than your run-of-the-mill kitchen sink drama and today’s audiences might be shocked at how much they still relate to Peter and Joey.
- Fubar (2002) & Fubar 2: Balls to the Wall (2010). Canada has a grand tradition of hoser comedy ranging from Strange Brew to The Trailer Park Boys but Michael Dowse’s Terry and Deaner take the genre to the next level. It’s the wild lived-in improvisational nature of the comedy and Dowse’s ability to inject reality and feeling into bizarre caricatures that really make these movies classic Canadian comedy.
- Away From Her (2006). Alice Munro remains one of Canada’s greatest storytellers and Sarah Polley’s adaptation of The Bear Came Over The Mountain remains one of the best films created from her work. A rare story of an older couple, brilliantly played by Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie, coming to grips with their past and future remains true to Munro’s ambiguity and her observations of Canadian life.
- The Adjuster (1991). It’s hard to choose a favorite among the many Atom Egoyan titles which range from mysteries like Where The Truth Lies, artistic experiments like Family Viewing, and thrillers like Felicia’s Journey, but The Adjuster strikes an interesting balance between his more experimental period and his more widely known films. The less said about the puzzling plot the better, but rest assured if you want a unique, sensual and visually exciting film this will be like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
This April 19th we hope you’ll join us in recognizing Canadian film and the wide variety of stories coming out of our country. National Canadian Film Day is a great highlight of how many exciting movies we’ve created and a reminder to make room for Canadian movies year-round.