Arts

Have yourself a Canadiana Christmas with these 5 movies

Whether they're warming your heart or making you jump with fright, Canuck filmmakers offer a distinctly Canadian view on the most wonderful time of the year.

Some distinctly Canuck views on the most wonderful time of the year

A scene from the film 'A Christmas Story', probably the most famous Canadian Christmas movie ever made (even if it's set in Indiana). (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

From snow-covered documentaries to feel-good hockey parables, many of Canada's best-loved films are set in the harshest of seasons.

While our American counterparts churn out a new glut of Yuletide flicks each year, Canadian filmmakers tend to focus on the post-festive period, with stories set in the deep, dark winter. But a walk through our cinematic cannon reveals a small but surprisingly diverse collection of Canadian Christmas films that can either warm your heart or chill you to the bone.

Bob Clark's 1983 classic A Christmas Story is arguably our country's most famous holiday film, though it doesn't have full Canadian bona fides. Loosely based on the life of American writer Jean Shepherd, it's set in Indiana, shot mostly in Cleveland (with a few scenes in Toronto and St. Catherines) and populated by an almost entirely American cast (with the exception of Tedde More and Zack Ward). But that didn't stop it from being winning two Genie Awards for screenplay and direction (the latter which Clark shared in a tie with David Cronenberg for Videodrome, interestingly enough).

The production is arguably more American. But Clark's tale of a chubby, myopic kid pining over a Red Ryder BB gun just feels so Canadian. Snowball fights with bullies and tongues frozen to metal poles are childhood staples in Wisconsin and North Dakota but foreign to kids in Arizona and Louisiana. In Canada, though, these experiences are near universal rites of passage no matter what part of the country you're from.


Owing to the lack of light associated with the season, Canadians also have a penchant for darker holiday tales — like Claude Jutra's Mon oncle Antoine. The Quebecois director's 1971 film about a teenage orphan helping his alcoholic undertaker uncle transport the body of a young boy through a Christmas Eve snowstorm is far from feel-good fodder.

Frequently cited as one of the best Canadian films of all time, Jutra's layered exploration of family dynamics and sexual awakening was read by film scholar André Loiselle as a metaphorical examination of La Belle Province's struggle between the desire for independence and the safety of remaining within the Canadian federation.

Sometimes compared to Swedish master of misery Ingmar Bergman, Jutra offers us a different path to get into the spirit of the season. Rather than warming your heart with a happy ending, the film asks us to question who we are through deep personal contemplation.

(Editor's note: Earlier this year, film critic Matthew Hays offered his thoughts on how to consider Jutra's canon in the wake of molestation allegations against him.)


Winter can literally be deadly up here, so it should be no surprise we've found ways to make Christmas scary.

Our forays into the hybrid genre of holiday horror include Black Christmas (also directed by Clark), about a group of sorority sisters trapped in a house with a homicidal maniac, and David Steiman's Santa's Slay, featuring former pro-wrestler Bill Goldberg cast as a murderous Saint Nick knocking off those who ended up on his naughty list.

Possibly riffing on the title of Clark's classic, we also have the collaboratively-directed anthology film A Christmas Horror Story. Helmed by Steve Hoban, Grant Harvey and Brett Sullivan, it offers interwoven tales of seasonal terror: a trio of teens investigating a gruesome double murder, a family haunted by a mythological demon and Santa himself battling a workshop full of zombie elves, all connected by William Shatner as the radio DJ Dangerous Dan.


Finally, if you're looking for a quick break from holiday madness, Jason Eisener's hilarious short Treevenge is not to be missed. Sick of being subjected to annual humiliation by humans, a small town's enraged evergreens strike back in a roaring rampage of collective revenge.

There's no shortage of options for filmic distraction over the holidays. While the onslaught of tinsel-drenched tales of budding romance and redeemed curmudgeons flood steadily north, consider ringing in the holidays with some homegrown cinema this year.

Whether they're warming your heart, bringing a tear to your eye or making you jump with fright, Canuck filmmakers can offer you a distinctly Canadian view on the most wonderful time of the year. Merry watching!

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