Do you hate winter? If so, you may just be a typical, modern Canadian.
We Canucks may have a mythic international reputation (and self-image) as a nation of hardy winter warriors who joyously, skate, ski, ice fish and trek our way through months of cold and snow, but in recent decades our love affair with winter seems to have gone sour. What's happened to our Canadian 'cold genes'? Have we gone soft and lost our 'winter edge'?
These are the opening questions of Life Below Zero, a light-hearted yet thought-provoking new documentary about Canadians and our changing relationship with winter, by filmmakers Josh Freed and Barbara Doran.
Freed and Doran, who teamed up in 2010 to produce the memorable documentary Where Did I Put…My Memory?, return this year with an entertaining and illuminating film about how "life below zero" affects our daily routines, our psyches and our national values. It asks how those values are changing as we live more insular, indoor lives and increasingly flee south for winter. Life Below Zero also sets off to see how Canadians' relationship to winter compares with that of other northern nations, from stoic Russia to winter-loving Scandinavia.
First, though, we remind everyone of all the elements of the typical Canadian winter experience, including a 24-hour snowstorm in St. John's that immobilizes the city by dumping over 20 inches of snow on it. Then, along with many Canadian snowbirds, it's off to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and from there on to Russia, Sweden and Norway before returning home. Along the way, Life Below Zero reveals much about how we Canadians cope with cold — and what we can learn from others who need to do the same.
As we see in Life Below Zero, there are recent signs that we are also beginning to re-embrace our inner snowman — and not just flee from winter — as many cities try to bring winter back into our hearts. Ottawa now has Winterlude; Toronto dines out at Winterlicious; Quebec City's Winter Carnival has been reclaimed for families after years of being a magnet for drunken college students; Les amis de la montagne has reintroduced Toque Bleu, a traditional snowshoe race; Edmonton has come up with the Winter Light Festival and Metropolis. Even generally mild Vancouver now puts on a festival called Winterruption.
This new sentiment may be a return to the past — once expressed in the famous Quebec anthem, Mon Pays, where the lyric goes, "Mon pays, ce n'est pas un pays, c'est l'hiver". In English, it translates to, "My country is not a country, it's winter". Life Below Zero asks all Canadians if we're ready to return to our roots and reclaim winter, and maybe even re-write our national anthem to be "Snow Canada".
Life Below Zero is written and directed by Josh Freed and produced by Barbara Doran and Josh Freed for MORAG LOVES COMPANY and Josh Freed Inc., in association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.