I spent some time thinking about what to say to about National Canadian Film Day. I thought of some funny things, a couple of Can Con jokes I could throw around like, “How many Canadian actors does it take to screw in a light bulb? One hundred, one to do it and ninety-nine to say ‘I could’ve done that.’” For obvious reasons I decided not to go that route.
Instead I cast my mind back to growing up.
I thought about living in small town Nova Scotia. I reflected on being a young man who hadn’t traveled anywhere yet, who imagined the West Coast was an exotic land where arbutus trees grew and nobody needed to own a parka.
I remembered the guy who spent most of his early life sitting at the Astor Theater in my town watching the images Canadian directors like Claude Jutra, Don Shebib and Ted Kotcheff created dance across the screen.
I thought about what I learned about my own country watching the visions of cinematographers like Eugene Boyko, John Spotton and their colleagues. They were pioneers who looked at our country and figured out a way to represent it honestly, on screens big and small.
For me the pictures of Toronto in Going Down the Road or Newfoundland in The Rowdyman, shaped the way but I thought about my country, and the way I thought about the people who lived in my country.
I don’t think it is a coincidence that the birth of the film and television industry in Canada in the 50s, 60s and 70s coincided with a renewal of nationalism nationwide. For the first time Canadians were treated to beautiful, lifelike, moving, in depth portraits of places like Dawson City courtesy of cinematographers Wolf Koenig and Colin Low in City of Gold; or the icy chill of Montreal, captured in Don’t Let the Angels Fall and an all encompassing look at us in Across This Land with Stompin’ Tom Connors.
Forget the railroad or the Trans Canada Highway, your images of what makes Canada and Canadians special are the things that really connected the country.
The camera has been called a time machine and when we look at the films shot by Canadian filmmakers we see our past, but we also see a glimpse of our future. The pioneering work done by those men and women laid the foundation for the industry we celebrate on April 20. In those images are the very essence of who we are as a people and the creative promise of the industry we have today.
Celebrate National Canadian Film Day by watching a Canadian film, for free, at locations all over the country. Find out more HERE.