Crawl Across the Ocean

Saturday, July 09, 2005

At the Video Store

I wonder if Canada is the only country where domestic movies either get put in their own section or get lumped in with 'foreign'. And to find them, you generally need to look in a back, dark corner of the store, often adjacent to the porn section.

Not that I'm disparaging this filing system - if anything it seems quite an accurate assessment of Canadian film. Still, I'm just wondering if this happens in other countries like the U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, France etc.

On the topic of Canadian movies, I'm not going to write a review, but I thought that 'Seducing Dr. Lewis', a Québécois movie about a small (former) fishing village which goes to great lengths to try and get a doctor to come there, was pretty good. Some may find the premise a bit implausible, but not those who come from my hometown of Peterborough. That is because, while, of course, it pales in comparison with the mighty lift lock, there is a modest tourist attraction in Peterborough known as the Hutchison house.

One of the oldest houses in the city, it was built in 1836 as an enticement for the local doctor (Dr. Hutchison). Of course, back in those days, heading into the boonies to be a doctor involved more than just putting up with bad cellphone service and Dr. Hutchison died of typhus in 1847 while attending to stricken immigrants.

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  • for years i have been trying to figure out why canadians insist on denying their own talents. every now and then some spark of inspiration occurs and a canadian has the nerve to create a film, a novel, a recording or what have you. the typical response is for us to begin apologizing. this odd trait can be further reduced on a regional level. i live an hour away from toronto, the arts community here has produced a lot of amazing work and workers. the trouble is that none of that effort is validated until those persons take their efforts to the big city. in fact i have watched countless times as friends and others made detailed plans to go to t.o. to see a performer in a crappy venue with ridiculous cover charges, over priced drinks and the added complications of designated drivers and impossible to find, usurious parking. not such a big deal, right? you want to see the performer and you'll sacrifice time, effort and convenience to do so. what makes it so silly is that the same performer will be booked into our own town, in a better venue at half the cover and reasonable drink prices all within stumbling distance of home. and they'll play to a half empty room. as for the film industry, canada needs some investors with courage, vision and ready disposables. we have all of the talent, equipment, locations and technical infrastructure to make world class films (as either cash cow entertainments or artistic works), what we lack is confidence and fortitude. until we grow some spines and develop a credible vision for competing on the world stage, we will continue to say sorry for yet another brooding film about snow.

    By Blogger Lindsay Stewart, at 10:19 AM  

  • Peterborough eh? I spent many years there myself. I thoroughly enjoyed Seducing Dr. Lewis. For better titles, if they're still open, "Have You Seen"...downtown is a great spot.

    By Blogger Princess Monkey, at 12:23 PM  

  • Declan, I hope you didn't just ruin your "street cred" by giving your Peterborough heritage away.


    By Blogger Simon, at 1:08 PM  

  • Pretty shaved ape, that's not quite accurate - Canadians are ever so proud of those artists of ours who have migrated south. We claim Celine Dion, Alanis Morissette, Mike Myers et al as our own as though we grew and nourished them ourselves, yet our best performers (*), who've stayed in Canada - Leahy, Loreena McKennitt, Sarah Polley - are all but ignored even at home. Sad, really.

    (*) well, my favourite performers, anyway. But still!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:56 PM  

  • moebius, that was pretty much my point. we don't validate our own talents until they leave. my proposal is that we look beyond the excited states for a barometer of quality or success. that begins with nurturing talent here at home and then exporting our creative capital with a concerted eye on the world market. despite free trade and all that bushwah (beef, trade?) we can do more by marketing our works to the world market. there is a wealth of untapped talent here. what is missing is the homegrown entrepreneurs to take advantage of that talent pool. my own experience in the film and music industries has just left me baffled by our national timidity.

    i've worked with all sorts of big name american stars and technicians and they generally love being here. we routinely produce big budget, block busters and award winning films for american companies. i just think it is about time we kicked some financiers in the ass, showed them the american film investment model and took on america out there in the international market. there is a ton of money to made and artistic credibility to promote. and let's face it, canadians are being drawn over the border as a natural resource to prop up the american industry. i say we reverse the trend and take them at their own game.

    the fact that myers, dion, carrey, ayckroyd, candy, levy, jewison, cameron, shania, barenaked ladies etc etc end up leaving for the big u.s. market is a national shame. after all, we did nurture those talents, we just didn't give them the opportunity to reap the rewards of that effort. what we suffer is a lack of vision from the business end. our biggest production industry acts as a feeder for someone else's profit. we don't have a large enough market to support homegrown blockbusters but we can compete in the very lucrative international market if we have the will.

    By Blogger Lindsay Stewart, at 6:23 PM  

  • pretty shaved ape / moebius stripper - some good points. The fact that *Lions Gate* Films is headquartered in California speaks volumes.

    Given the amount of talent with respect to all aspects of filmmaking which must now exist in Toronto and Vancouver, it's not clear to me why Hollywood has to remain as the centre of the movie-making universe.

    Still, I think the general trend, whether with respect to movies or music, is positive. The Tragically Hip stands as an example of a band which has been hugely popular in Canada without ever amounting to much in the U.S. and the same could be said for lots of other bands.

    Hard to think of any equivalent examples for (English) movies, but perhaps that day is coming.


    Simon - all I have to say is at least I'm not from the 'City of Kawartha Lakes'.

    By Blogger Declan, at 11:18 PM  

  • Declan, I can't remember where NZ movies were placed in the video stores when I lived down there. They have funding organizations like Canada does to encourage movies (NZ on Air, in their case) but I really don't recall there being much of a NZ presence in the movie scene. On the other hand, I remember one night a TV station let the viewers dial in and vote on which movie they wanted to see -- a Hollywood movie or a NZ movie. The NZ movie won, so maybe Kiwis are more aware of their movie industry then I'm giving them credit for.

    I did notice a big difference in support for home grown bands in NZ and Australia though. Both countries have lots of great bands that are barely heard of outside of the region but can get top 10/top 20 hits in their home country. It usually wasn't difficult to find Kiwi bands being talked about (positively) in the NZ media -- be it a New Zealand Herald article, a magazine, the radio or a TV show. I agree with you that Canada is getting alot better, but I don't think Canadian musicians get as much support as musicians in NZ or Australia do.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:51 PM  

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