Canada's Film Industry When Talking Term Paper

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Thus, the home market became an agora of diversity. Ethnic issues began to tell their stories through the voice of Srinivas Krishma who returned to her Indian roots in Masala (1991) or depicted the life of a Vietnamese refugee in Lulu (1996). Black people outlined their problems due to Rude (1995), or The Planet of Junior Brown (1997), directed by Clement Vigo, and Soul Survivor (1995), produced by Steven Williams. Both of them had graduated from the Canadian Centre for Advanced Film Studies, founded by Norman Jewinson in 1988. Sexual minorities were not neglected either, an eloquent example being John Greyson who made one of the best short films ever - The Making of Monsters (1991).

However promising this evolution may be, the English branch of Canadian cinematography continues to lack in distribution on the domestic market. Consequently, this results in low box-office revenues which are considered to be high enough when they exceed $1 million. But this merciless faith doesn't seem to extend over the French Branch which is more successful because of the language which determines the audience from Quebec to be more receptive (Verroneau, Morris, and Handling, 2006).

An attempt to explain the paradox

Suppose we invited a person who knew nothing about the Canadian film industry to read the following information: the National Film Board won 10 Academy Awards; the Canadian director Denys Arcand won the best foreign movie Oscar for Les invasions barbares (2003) and the Jury Prize of the Cannes Festival for Jesus de Monteral (1989); his colleague Atom Egoyan was awarded the International Critics' Prize in 1994 for Exotica and the Grand Prix, the International Critics' Prize, and the Ecumenical Jury Prize of the Cannes Festival for the Sweet Hereafter in 1997; Canadian director David Cronenberg won a Special Jury Prize in 1996 for his movie C.R.A.S.H. Undoubtedly, that person would be impressed by these achievements and wonder why he didn't hear about them. According to Peter Morris (2006), the main cause that overshadowed the national industry was a defectuous deal which followed World War II. In 1947, Canada owed the U.S.A. vast sums of money that the latter had lent during the conflagration. Consequently, when the NFB and CFDC tried to establish both a tax on American movies that were entering the country and distribution rights for Canadian films, U.S.A. reminded them of the balance payment. Therefore, the government was almost compelled to sign the Co-operation Project, a mephistotelic pact whose echoes continue to be propagated over nowadays industry, too. The agreement stipulated that American movies were allowed free access on the home market in exchange for their attempt to promote Canadian tourism through numerous enticing landscapes included as a setting in their motion pictures. This was obviously a pretext aimed at justifying a truce from which only one part came out victorious.

The decline that followed was sharp and even became subject to national jokes pointing at Canadian films' failure to cover their production costs. If one takes Australian pictures as a comparison term, he can see that despite having a smaller population, this country obtains much higher profits. An edifying example is Mad Max, the movie starring then unknown Mel Gibson, which had a budget of AU$350,000 and a revenue of AU$5.6 million on the home market alone. Moreover, if most Canadian actors went to Hollywood for making their entrance on the international market, Australian performers like Nicole Kidman, Guy Pearce or Hugo Weaving first became famous in their country and afterwards were recruited by Americans ( course, we could argue that history was much more indulgent with them because they weren't obliged to fight the absurd consequences of an unfair agreement. Still, this doesn't seem to be enough when explaining the downward trend which requires seriously delving into its causes.

The first item refers to the inequitable balance between Canada and the U.S.A. In terms of competing on the same market. The usual average cost of producing and marketing an American feature amounts $60 million, not to mention blockbusters like Titanic whose record budget amounted $650 million. As Hicks states (1999), American studios like Paramount, Universal, Fox, Sony Pictures/Columbia, Warner Brothers etc. are "not only vast production lots with sound stages and property departments, studio sets, and location ranches for major productions, but also major investment houses" (, if we think of Canadian films with an average budget of $2.1 million, this may sound as black humor. According to filmmaker Paul Donovan, making a movie in Canada is similar to "climbing Mount Everest without oxygen because of the indifferent public, harsh critics, limited funds and foreign-owned movie houses." He highlights that the art of the motion picture is a "labor of love" and international masterpieces like The Barbarian Invasions and Nobody waved Goodbye were born only because of the filmmakers' passion and self-determination to make their talent shine worldwide, regardless of financial drawbacks. But not all professionals accepted to fight that much in order to convince their home country that they deserved its attention. Admirable directors and producers like Ivan Reitman and Norman Jewinson chose Hollywood over Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal out of financial reasons but also because of Canadian snobbery. Referring to this last issue, Reitman mentioned some of his movies (including Metaballs) which despite bringing major revenues, were highly criticized by specialists. Others proved to be more stubborn and rejected the American Dream. This category boasts Davis Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan, Denys Arcand who made excellent movies although they stayed at home. Still, Arcand admits that the enchantment of the mighty dollar was very difficult to resist.

In conclusion, similar quality requires similar budget. The financial inequity between the two countries explains the character-driven dramas or quirky comedies through which Canada strives to continue its cinematographic tradition although these genres are tasted rather by critics than mass audiences. On the other hand, there are voices which claim that the tax policy implemented by the government didn't stimulate qualitative movies as the producers' single goal was to benefit from the tax credit. This means that not only poor budgets, but also filmmakers' eagerness to make profits without proper work created favorable conditions to a general decline.

A second reason which can explain the failure of Canadian movies is their lack of connection with the cultural heritage. For instance, people find it very difficult to believe that movies like Porky's or The Art of War were partially made in Canada. On one hand, this tendency may derive from the Canadian filmmakers' conviction that movies sell better when resembling the American ones. In the editorial posted on, the Masked Movie Critic makes a very interesting analysis of several films broadcasted by national televisions or exhibited in movie theaters. Thus, he refers to Siblings, a black comedy which despite using Canadian settings and cast doesn't mention these details on its credits. Moreover, when talking about a latent homosexual, the character uses the "queer as a three-dollar bill" expression although this doesn't exist in Canada. On the contrary, even the one and two dollar bills were long ago transformed into coins which bear the names of "loonie" and respectively, "toonie." The same movie makes use of "the third grade" syntagma in spite of the fact that Canadians say "grade three." Another example is the teen drama Falcon Beach which forgets that it is set in Canada and presents children waiting for the results of their Harvard application. The gap between the movie and the real life is huge as very few Canadians apply for foreign universities. The enumeration continues with the Terminal City mini series which at a certain moment focuses on Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction," an American controversy that Canadians didn't share. Furthermore, the editorialist mentions the American accent from Canadian movies and the extent that this import of principles has reached, by evoking a scene in a Canadian shop: "A while back someone told me about overhearing a conversation between two people -- shopping in Toronto's Bohemian Kensington Market, yet -- trying to identify a longshoreman's type toque. And one of them described it as a "Relic hat" and the other instantly knew what was meant. Relic being, of course, a character in the old Beachcombers TV series who wore as his kind of signature garb that sort of cap" (

In conclusion, the taste for American models has become a stigma that doesn't look to be shuttered in the near future. And this problem doesn't consist of different accents or idioms alone. It also refers to distorting the Canadians' image of their real history. In this context, the same editorialist who was quoted above invokes the case of Battlestar Galactica, a U.S. science fiction series filmed in Canada, with a predominantly Canadian cast. The movie is broadcasted on TV and is highly appreciated by both fans and critics, exerting an overwhelming influence on viewers. In one of its episodes, the death penalty was brought into discussion although Europeans, Canadians and most American states don't resort to it. Moreover,…[continue]

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