Thursday, 23 January 2014

AMERICAN MAPLE SYRUP?


The word is out, Seth Gordon is set to direct an upcoming film based on Quebec’s Great Maple Syrup Heist of 2012. 

As a personal note, I am very excited about this project for a few reasons. First of all, Jason Segel. Second of all, Seth Gordon. Third of all, Chris Sheridan. The big American names suggest that the film is looking at a wide release, and other than its Canadian content, I have yet to come across any indication that the film will be Canadian made to any extent. This begs the age old question of what qualifies a film as Canadian? Sure, there is a standard put forth by our Academy, but the issue is obviously far more complex.

In 2008, writer/director Jason Reitman noisily expressed his dismay that his first feature film Juno had not been recognized by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television. In addition to its Canadian born writer/director, the film starred Canadian leads and employed a largely Canadian crew. He has been quoted in the Calgray Herald (Feb. 2008) stating the following:

"I still wish we had been eligible for the Genies," he said. "I still don't understand why not. Why aren't we eligible for a Genie when David Cronenberg's film (Eastern Promises), which was about Russians living in London and shot in England with a British crew and British cast, is eligible?"   

So what happened? It’s all been pretty unclear but the Academy has offered the response that the studio simply never submitted the film to be considered for a Genie. Meanwhile, yes, Eastern Promises (co-produced by Canada, the U.S.A., and the U.K.) cleaned up at the Genies that year despite its utter disconnection from Canada and Canadian sentiment. So, I guess it was submitted.

I don't wish to imply that a film can only be Canadian if it somehow expresses Canada, because frankly I don’t even know what I would mean by that. I suppose the imagined concept of a Canadian cinema is largely linked to the development of the National Film Board way back in 1938. Even today, our canon remains the subject of intense critical debate: What belongs and why? While some of my favorite Canadian films include, High Life (Gary Yates 2009), Ginger Snaps (John Fawcett 2000), and Hard Core Logo (Bruce McDonald 1996), I’m not terribly convinced these films would ever be canonized (although I could make an argument for each case). As a rule, I keep an open mind when viewing and discussing Canadian cinema, so as to not fall into the uncomfortable trap of trying to define it by its Canadian-ness, or lack thereof. I seek out Canadian films because it provides me with a sense of pride to support other Canadians who have a passion for film and are out there creating something out of it. 

While it would be really exciting to learn of an actual Canadian connection to Gordon’s upcoming film, I won’t demand it. I think it will be nice just to get one of our stories told. I just hope it is not loaded up with tasteless stereotypes!