When's the last time you saw a Canadian film? That's a key question and the main impetus behind National Canadian Film Day, a cross-Canada event designed to celebrate and shine a light on the country's struggling movie industry.
There are myriad reasons why Canadians, for the most part, aren't watching English-Canadian films — whether it's our reputation for making homegrown films that are less populist and more art-house fare, the lack of wide distribution in Canadian cinemas or even low awareness about what domestic projects are being released.
Putting aside recent co-productions like the Resident Evil franchise, the most successful Canadian films of all time have been titles such as 1979's summer camp comedy Meatballs, the 1982 sex-comedy Porky's or 2006's buddy cop film Bon Cop, Bad Cop.
According to figures from the Movie Theatre Association of Canada, English-Canadian titles made up just 1.2 per cent of the films screened at Canadian cinemas in 2013. That number has hovered at about 1.5 per cent for more than a decade.
"Canadians want to see as much commercial product as they can and if commercial means entertaining and engaging, then that's it. You could say half the films in the [United] States don't work as well, if not more," filmmaker Michael Dowse, director of the hit hockey enforcer comedy Goon and the upcoming indie romance The F Word, told CBC News.
"I think most Canadians want to see something more entertaining in terms of what's coming out," he said.
The massive American entertainment complex to our south is a major factor, but it doesn't have to overtake a sense of patriotism for our own movies, notes award-winning filmmaker Deepa Mehta, whose drama Water earned her an Oscar nomination for best foreign-language film.
"I don't think we should compete with Hollywood. In many aspects, [the U.S. is] a much bigger country. It has a much older entertainment industry than we do and I think to compete with them is bizarre," Mehta said.
"But we have our own strengths in our own films," she added, likening the Canadian industry to that of Australia, where the citizens tout and "love Australian films."
"We as people — and I think this is our strength actually — are perhaps not so brash. Maybe we are a bit too polite and we don't push ourselves as much. But then we are also artists who make stuff that has depth. So let's use our strengths, which is a sweetness and an introspectiveness. And an edge — I mean Cronenberg has edge! But there's something quintessentially Canadian about David Cronenberg and that's a Canadian quality. That Canadian quality is not in your face and that's who we are. Not "in your face" kind of people with our work, with our film, with our literature, with our performances, with theatre."
In the attached videos, Eli Glasner asks Canadians about their knowledge of homegrown films and reports for The National on Canadian Film Day and the ongoing campaign to promote domestic cinema.