The British Commonwealth spelling of the word “flavor” is your first clue that we aren’t in Kansas anymore. Actually more like Toronto, the home base of Canadian filmmaker Michael Sparaga, whose documentary Maple Flavour Films premiered on Wednesday, March 26th at the Canadian Film Festival.
The premise of Sparaga’s directorial debut is simple but intriguing as it commingles interviews with industry folks and critics alongside those of average men and women on the street to determine the temperature of Canadian moviemaking. Since there are far fewer well-known movie critics in Canada than there are in the U.S., Sparaga felt it imperative that his doc feature one Richard Crouse.
“The lists of professional folks we wanted to talk to were pretty short, and we pretty much got everybody we wanted right off the bat,” Sparaga tells Excalibur, a newspaper published by his Toronto Alma Mater, York University. “I mean, Richard Crouse specifically has the longest running movie review show in Canada, Reel to Reel, and he’s pretty much the only personality that’s recognizable as a critic. So, it just felt like a natural [choice] to talk to him and get him involved.”
Perhaps the most intriguing revelation of Sparaga’s research is the lessons English Canada needs to learn from French Canada, a.k.a. Quebec. Although the perception in the former is that French-Canadians embrace all cinematic offerings in their native language, it’s actually more a matter of a standard preference for high-concept action and comedy.
“Those [high-concept] movies do better because they’re made for audiences, and that’s what English Canada has to realize, that we can’t rely on Away From Her,” Sparaga suggests. “We can’t rely on a drama to be the engine of our box office. A one-million-dollar box office success is not successful at all. It’s successful for a drama, and for the style of film it is, but it can’t be everything we’re betting on that year at the cinema.”
Further confirming Sparaga’s views is the fact that the recent 2007 Canadian film Silk, despite the presence of Keira Knightley in the lead, failed miserably at the box office because of its murky 19th century narrative. Conversely, he suggests that even though the Mike Myers films Wayne’s World and The Love Guru were made by Paramount Pictures, their maker and narratives easily tip them over the 49th parallel.
“The Love Guru is about a guru who comes back to Toronto to help the Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup,” Sparaga notes. “That’s going to be the most Canadian movie this year, I guarantee it. It’s a hundred times more Canadian than Eastern Promises. I still think Titanic is more Canadian than Eastern Promises.”
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