Arts·NCFD 150

6 of the most unique places to see a movie on National Canadian Film Day

Strange Brew at a brewery! Angry Inuk at an arctic research station! With 1,700+ events happening April 19, your viewing options are anything but limited.

With 1,700+ events happening April 19, your viewing options are anything but limited

This is Peyto Lake in Banff National Park. If you ever get bored of the view, National Canadian Film Day is doing an official screening nearby. (Canadian Press)

The organizers behind National Canadian Film Day are calling their event the "world's biggest film festival," given that more than 1,700 venues will be screening, well, Canadian films on April 19. You don't reach that number by taking over traditional movie theatres alone. Even Cineplex, Canada's largest theatre chain, doesn't operate quite that many screens across the country (in case you're counting, they have 1,676). So that means hundreds of viewing parties will be happening at temporary "pop-up" cinemas — unusual spots where you wouldn't typically catch a movie, never mind one that was funded by Telefilm. There'll be events at schools, military bases, seniors' homes and — as if those particular audiences aren't captive enough — there are movies playing at detention centres, too. As for shows that are open to the public, there are plenty of unique options out there, as well. Here are just a few of the examples we found.

A view of Two Jack Lake in Banff National Park. (Travel Alberta/Canadian Press)


The idea that a movie could compete with the jaw-dropping natural spectacle of a national park takes so much balls, it's almost un-Canadian. So will an animated feature about a snowball fight distract you from the cliffs and woodlands of the Georgian Bay shore? There's only one way to find out, and if the answer's no, take a hike or something.

Bruce Peninsula National Park in Tobermory, Ont. will be presenting Snowtime! (La guerre des tuques). Elsewhere, Anne of Green Gables — the Megan Follows miniseries version — is playing about an hour outside of Brandon, Man. at the Riding Mountain National Park Visitor Centre, and Iron Road — an 1880s railway drama starring Peter O'Toole — hits the Cave and Basin National Historic Site in Banff National Park, a spot with plenty of railway history itself.

Strange Brew (1983), starring Dave Thomas (L) and Rick Moranis. (MGM)

Strange Brewpubs!

Where there is beer, you'll find Bob and Doug McKenzie — a theory that is especially true on National Canadian Film Day. The characters jumped from SCTV to film with Strange Brew in 1983, and in keeping with the surreal flick's sudsy theme, it's playing at the Refined Fool Brewing Co. in Sarnia, Ont., Picaroons Roundhouse in Fredericton and Bricks Wine Company in Calgary (which, despite the name, also specializes in beer). Those are your options for a night with a couple of O.G. hosers; as for the new(ish) school, you can catch Fubar at the Rebellion Brewing Company in Regina.

Luxury hotels!

Covered with vines and rising over the harbour, the Empress Hotel is a grand, old-fashioned railway hotel and one of Victoria's most famous tourist destinations. Atom Egoyan knows it well — he worked there as a busboy when he was a kid. And the filmmaker is making a homecoming to attend the hotel's NCFD presentation of his latest movie, the Christopher Plummer-led revenge drama Remember.

The Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria. (Canadian Press)

On the opposite end of the country, you'll find a totally opposite hotel experience. Newfoundland's Fogo Island Inn is a modern and remote retreat on the island's rocky shore, and it's hosting two very Newfoundland screenings: The Grand Seduction and John and the Missus, both starring local acting legend Gordon Pinsent.

The Fogo Island Inn. (Source:

Historical sites!

The Grand Seduction is playing all over the country, actually. If you search the event listings, you'll find a whopping 93 screenings — and Fort Langley National Historic Site in B.C. will be showing the French language film that inspired it, La grande séduction (Seducing Doctor Lewis). As for the site, it's an attraction dedicated to the birthplace of the province — one of those living-history museums where you'll find plenty of costumed interpreters playing fur trappers, pioneers and other early settler types. Invite one of them along to the show, and maybe they'll accuse the crowd of witchcraft. Sheesh, NCFD, it's the early 1800s. Don't you know movies haven't been invented yet?

Visitors roast bannock over a fire at the Fort Langley National Historic Site. (Parks Canada)

Filming locations!

For a different sort of history — Canadian movie history — there are a few off-the-grid options, and our favourite destination is Burrits Rapids, Ont. For a second there, we wondered whether the village was a secret hipster enclave. How else could they have unearthed The Boy in Blue, an obscure and oh-so-CanCon biopic starring Nicolas Cage? Yeah, no. Cage filmed the movie there when he was 20 years old — decades before the invention of memes.

Also starring a couple of #CanFilmDay usual suspects, Christopher Plummer and Cynthia Dale, Cage plays old-timey rowing champ Ned Hanlan (of the Hanlan's Point Hanlans, a detail we'll include since we already mentioned Canadian hipster enclaves). Plenty of Burritts Rapids residents appear in the movie, according to NCFD's official blog, but April 19 will be a premiere of sorts: the movie's never been shown in the community. It's been 31 years since it came out, so maybe they know something we don't? At least the trailer's worth watching. Gotta love an 1880s training montage...


An arctic research station!

Hang with scientific research teams and plenty of folks from Inuvik, N.W.T. at the Aurora Research Institute. They're hosting a public screening of the documentary Angry Inuk — which is the only arctic destination included on this particular list, but it's actually not the northernmost NCFD event. That distinction goes to CFB Alert on Ellesmere Island. Theirs, understandably, is a closed event: a Paul Gross double-feature of Hyena Road and Passchendaele.

Hockey rinks! Amusement parks! Dairy farms! Your mom's house!

If you can connect to the internet, you can be a part of National Canadian Film Day, even if your screening is totally unofficial and playing to an audience of one. Here at CBC, for instance, you have your pick of several official NCFD picks: Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, Away From Her, Incendies, Last Night, Manufactured Landscapes, Stories We Tell, The Sweet Hereafter and Water. Watch them online for free — and all summer long. In addition to streaming, CBC TV will be airing Canadian movies every Saturday night at 9 p.m. starting June 17. 

To find National Canadian Film Day events near you, visit their website.