Canadian filmmakers have long maintained an uneasy relationship with romantic films – comedy or drama – at least in their classical form. If the Hollywood version ends by finding stability in couples (and the famous last kiss), the typical Canadian romantic comedy leaves its lovers alone and somehow unfulfilled. They tend to be off-kilter, with only a few actually telling a romantic tale straight up. In a country more famous for producing seriously deranged love stories such as Lynne Stopkewich’s Kissed and David Cronenberg’s Crash, notable Canadian romantic movies have been few and far between. Here’s a sampling of the best half-dozen for your Valentine’s Day viewing – and some even have a happy ending.
Une fois de plus, un film québécois se retrouve en nomination pour un Oscar, catégorie meilleur film étranger, suite à Incendies de Denis Villeneuve (2011) et à Monsieur Lazhar (2012) de Philippe Falardeau. Cette année, l’honneur revient à Kim Nguyen pour son film Rebelle (War Witch, v.a.).
Rebelle met en lumière l’histoire d’une jeune fille de 12 ans, Komona (Rachel Mwanza) qui se retrouve kidnappée par des rebelles dans un pays d’Afrique, jamais nommé. On la forcera à devenir un enfant-soldat. Très vite elle se découvrira des pouvoirs magiques, pouvoir qui lui permettent d’apercevoir des fantômes à travers la jungle, lui permettant ainsi de découvrir les cachettes des forces armées du gouvernement. Le film Rebelle couvre ainsi deux années de la vie de Komona, racontées par des retours en arrière et des récits, une odyssée qui amène le spectateur dans des massacres, des rites sorciers et une réalité poignante.
Once again a Québécois film has been nominated for a best foreign-language Oscar. In 2011, it was Denis Villenuve’s Incendies and in 2012 it was Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar. This year, the honour goes to Kim Nguyen’s Rebelle (War Witch is the English title).
In War Witch, a 12-year-old girl named Komona (Rachel Mwanza) is kidnapped by rebels in an un-named African country and forced to become a child soldier. But she soon discovers that she has magical powers – she can see ghosts in the jungle and knows when government forces lie in wait. War Witch covers two years of Komona’s life told in flashback and voiceover, an odyssey that veers into slaughter, witchcraft and magical realism. It’s a harrowing story told with a great deal of humanity and strikingly authentic performances, especially by Mwanza, an untrained street kid who was found on location in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition to the film’s Oscar nod, Mwanza won the Silver Bear for best actress at the Berlin International Film Festival and best actress at the Tribeca Film Festival. War Witch received 12 newly minted Canadian Screen Awards nominations (formerly the Genies), including best picture, best director, best screenplay and best actress for Mwanza.
The tag line for Bob Clark’s A Christmas Story is: “A Tribute to the Original, Traditional, One Hundred Per Cent, Red-Blooded, Two Fisted, All-American Christmas.” Except that the film isn’t. American that is. It’s a 100-per-cent Canadian production, shot on location in St. Catherines and Lindsay, Ontario, and studios in Toronto.
This is the story behind one of the most popular Yuletide movies that’s right up there with the holiday holy trinity of A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street
Arguably the most famous film ever shot in Canada, Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North was first shown to the public 90 years ago in New York City and then around the world in the summer of 1922. It caused an immediate sensation with its real-life depiction of the people and their struggle to survive the harsh landscape of Canada’s Far North. The film went on to exert considerable influence on the development of documentary films worldwide, although the word “documentary” was not in use when the film was made. It came later, in 1926, when Scottish film critic John Grierson, the man who would go on to create the National Film Board of Canada in 1939, coined the word to describe Moana of the South Seas, another Flaherty film.
“If there is anything the Festival of Festivals should avoid becoming, it is the Cannes Film Festival.” Jay Scott, film critic, The Globe and Mail, 1981
The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), now in its 37th year, is one of the world’s great film festivals without question. Second only to the Cannes Film Festival in terms of audience/press attendance, prestige and number of films screened; yet, since it opened its impressive five-story digs – known by its corporate name, the Bell Lightbox – in the heart of Toronto’s entertainment district in 2010, many questions remain unanswered. The big one being: how do you fill the 1,400 seats in the five state-of-the-art cinemas beyond the festival’s 11-day run during the first two weeks of September?
Sarah Polley’s second feature as writer/director, Take This Waltz, starring Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen and Luke Kirby, will be released at the end of the month. Polley, who is 33 and has been acting since the age of four – landing her first part in the Canadian movie One Magic Christmas and starring in Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen at the age of eight – has become one of the most respected directors in Canada, a remarkable achievement for a high school dropout.
A friend in the business passed along an email press release a while back because he assumed I might be interested. It opened with, “Cineplex Entertainment will celebrate 100 years of movies and movie-going memories in 2012.” Curious, I thought. As a corporate entity, Cineplex has only been around since 1979, when entertainment lawyer/producer Garth Drabinsky and distributor/exhibitor Nat Tayor launched the company with their first Cineplex theatres in Toronto’s Eaton Centre. Hardly the birth of cinema (the first public screening took place in Paris, Dec. 28, 1895), so what was “1912” referring to?
The 2012 Genie Awards are upon us once again with high hopes and low grumbling.
There are high hopes for a film industry perennially long on promise but short on delivery, and grumbling from critics who have watched the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, the organization responsible for the Genie and the Gemini Awards, struggle to live up to its claim that its awards are the “ultimate accolade” for Canadian films.