Entertainment: Canadians…Coming to a Theatre Near You!

by Michelle Joseph

Move over Johnny Depp – make room for hot Canadian talents who are quickly making names for themselves south of the border.

Previously Canadian filmmakers and actors have always found it difficult to compete with their American counterparts. Hollywood films were seen as more exciting, mainly because they had huge budgets, bigger stars and were fortunate enough to have wider distribution. Homegrown films on the other hand, were made for less money, starred lesser-known actors, and were only shown in a handful of theatres. So Canadian movies struggled to find audiences.

The National Film Board of Canada was formed to change the way people view Canadians films. Over the past 30 years, Canadian filmmakers have steadily begun to create critically acclaimed work and have successfully produced films that were not only good “Canadian” films, but good films.

Famous Canadian Directors

Due to the popularity of Hollywood films, most audiences are aware of American filmmakers – Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Spike Lee and Woody Allen. But we shouldn’t forget about the contributions made by our own talents.

James Cameron, a Kapuskasing, Ontario native, wrote and directed the smash hit Titanic. It went on to become the top grossing film of all time. Interestingly enough, another Canuck was also associated with the film’s achievements. Quebec-born singer Celine Dion provided the movie’s powerful theme song, “My Heart Will Go On”, which has become one of the most successful songs in music history.

Celebrated producer/director Norman Jewison is the creator of acclaimed films inside and outside of Canada. His greatest movies are Fiddler on the Roof, A Soldier’s Story and The Hurricane. But it wasn’t just his creative eye that brought him praise; it was that he decided to give back to the film community. In 1986 he founded the Canadian Film Centre whose mission is to create and foster Canadian film.

One of Canada’s most innovative filmmakers is David Cronenberg. His artistic body of work has made him a legend in film. He directed The Fly, A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, and the highly controversial movie, Crash (not to be confused with Paul Haggis’ movie Crash from 2004).

Denys Arcand from Quebec who directed the trilogy composed of Decline of the American Empire (1986), The Barbarian Invasions (2003), and Days of Darkness (2007) is also receiving critical acclaim.

The newest director to make waves in the United States is Jason Reitman (son of director Ivan Reitman). Jason has directed two feature films, Thank You for Smoking and the monster hit, Juno.

Rising Canadian Stars

Not only are Canadian filmmakers gaining worldwide attention – Canadian actors are giving American actors a run for their money! Everyone from Mike Myers to Ellen Page is involved in gigantic box-office smashes.

Funny man Myers, a Scarborough, Ontario native, is best known for his comedic roles in several movies, most notably, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery along with its two sequels and he hilariously provided the voice of “Shrek” in all three of those movies.

Born in Newmarket, Ontario, Jim Carrey is probably one of Canada’s most successful exports. After playing a variety of characters on television he went on to wow audiences with his giant leap into film. He starred in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, Dumb and Dumber, The Cable Guy and most recently, he provided the voice for the title character in Horton Hears a Who. Jim Carrey has played numerous memorable characters. His status of Hollywood big shot started when he became the first comedian to earn a $20 million paycheque for a role in a movie. Pretty cool for a Canadian boy, eh!

If Julia Roberts is America’s sweetheart, then Sarah Polley is Canada’s equivalent. Polley has been acting since she was four years old and acquired a massive fan following from her work on Road to Avonlea. She was drawn to independent films and took roles in The Sweet Hereafter and eXistenZ. Not limited to acting in artsy films, she also acted in bigger budget Hollywood movies, like Go and Dawn of the Dead. She directed the Oscar nominated film Away From Her, and wrote the screenplay based on a story by Canadian writer Alice Munro.

You can’t talk about rising Canadian actors and not mention Ellen Page and Marie-Josée Croze.

Ellen Page is one of the hottest young stars in Hollywood. She is a Halifax, Nova Scotia native who’s starred in various television series before landing acting roles in Hard Candy, X-Men: The Last Stand and Juno. Playing the lead character in Juno exploded her into superstardom. Her portrayal was so impressive that it led to an Oscar nomination for best Actress.

Marie-Josée Croze’s fame comes from her role in The Barbarian Invasions for which she received a Cesar (The Oscars’ French equivalent). She now lives in France and she is pursuing a great career. You might have seen her recently in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007).

Promoting Canadian Film

Toronto International Film

Festival (TIFF) is one of the most prestigious events of its kind in the world – the biggest film festival in North America, only comparable to Cannes or Berlin. During the event, members of the worldwide film industry flock to Toronto in hopes of having their film viewed. They know that having their movie shown at this festival will bring a lot of buzz and attention, just like what happened with Juno and Ellen Page last year.

The TIFF’s international success, in part, has helped to create a growing circuit of other film festivals across Canada. And through them, several minority groups have started presenting movies from their homelands to Canadian audiences. Just last month, the third Toronto Singapore Film Festival took place in the city, presenting 17 shorts and six feature films, including Jack Neo’s Just Follow Law, a massive hit in that country two years ago.

TIFF is only an example of Canadian movie madness. There are many other festivals, screenings, short film contests and animation presentations. Get a glimpse. Grab your popcorn and turn off your cell phone. Sit back and enjoy the show.

CNM