17 for '17: These are the great Canadian filmmakers of the future
They've already made their marks — but that's only the beginning
This weekend, CBC Arts debuts its new talk show The Filmmakers, which will spend 11 weeks highlighting some of the greatest Canadian filmmakers of the last 20 years — from Xavier Dolan to Sarah Polley to Deepa Mehta. But it's certainly not the first time we've covered this country's considerable cinematic contributions. In fact, we've been profiling some of Canada's most interesting and innovative filmmakers since our inception two years ago. And while some of them may not have reached the same point in their careers as a Polley or a Dolan, we're fairly certain they're well on their way.
So we thought we'd round up 17 of the most noteworthy among them as a little primer before The Filmmakers kicks off this Saturday. And we wouldn't be surprised if a few years from now, their names and films will be as synonymous with "the greatest" as any of the 11 folks featured on The Filmmakers — and who knows? Maybe we'll end up seeing them in future seasons.
For the last few years, Toronto-based filmmaker Sofia Bohdanowicz has been busy honing her craft. She's released several short films, including a poetic trilogy about her paternal grandmother and her first feature film, Never Eat Alone, a sublime, fictionalized account of her maternal grandmother's acting career. In the process, Bohdanowicz has discovered the beauty of the creative process itself — and that improvisatory spirit has come to define her filmmaking style. Read more about Sofia.
At this year's Slamdance Film Festival, Canadians made quite the impression. Daniel Warth (Dim The Fluorescents, which won Slamdance's top prize), Joyce Wong (Wexford Plaza), Adrian Murray (Withdrawn) and Jordan Canning (Suck It Up) followed in the footsteps of the likes of Christopher Nolan, Lynn Shelton and Benh Zeitlin by having their early work screen at the fest — and CBC Arts was there to the profile the quartet, who came out of the festival with more than acclaim: they also found community amongst themselves. Read more about Canning, Murray, Warth and Wong.
Last year, CBC Arts profiled Karen Chapman and her extraordinary documentary, Walk Good, which explores the story of Carol Roache, a woman from Toronto who had to bury all three of her children — Crystal, Yannick and Jamal — in separate incidents of gun violence. Chapman is continuing a tradition of black Canadian female filmmakers who have used the medium of documentary to tell important stories about Canada — people like Claire Prieto, Sylvia D. Hamilton, Jennifer Hodge de Silva and Alison Duke, who have made documentaries that challenge and reshape the narrative of this country's national identity, often inserting difficult and frequently silenced narratives into the limelight. When we asked Chapman what Walk Good is trying to say about Canada as a nation, she paused to reflect for a moment. "It speaks to the dual realities that we live in, that I live in," she said. "The fact that something like gun violence disproportionately affects my community says something about Canada." Read more about Karen.
Cividino's Sleeping Giant made its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015 before winning major prizes at the Toronto International Film Festival, Vancouver International Film Festival and the Canadian Screen Awards. Following three young boys (Jackson Martin, Reece Moffett and Canadian Screen Award winner Nick Serino) spending a summer together in an isolated cottage community in Northern Ontario, the stylish coming-of-age drama is impressively Cividino's first time directing a feature film. And instead of profiling Cividino, CBC Arts ask him about what films might have influenced — directly or indirectly — his freshman effort. Find out his answer here.
Dunn had a very big year when we profiled him back in 2015. After directing a string of well-received short films (his short documentary series Pop Up Porno played the Sundance Film Festival, in January 2015), the Newfoundland-born director's first feature Closet Monster premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and clinched the Canada Goose Award for Best Canadian Feature. But before that happened, CBC Arts shadowed Dunn during the premiere of Closet Monster, from the early morning technical check (which he calles the "last kiss" before sending his film out into the world) to his first press junket to his first walk down the red carpet and finally to the film's debut. Watch it all here.
Earlier this year, Funk's first feature Hello Destroyer was nominated for the top prize at the Canadian Screen Awards, among many other laurels. And he used the opportunity to vouch for his fellow Canadian filmmakers, talking to CBC Arts about the challenges of the industry. "The exhaustive narrative that Canadian film sucks, and is bad and broken, makes people disengage with it," Funk told us. "It'd be different if [the story was] 'Canadian cinema is great and you just don't know it.' Or maybe, 'There's garbage out there, but you don't know about the good stuff. And you should start getting interested.'" Read more about what Funk had to say here.
Halifax-based filmmaker Hannam's North Mountain made the festival rounds last year. It follows a young Mi'kmaw hunter in a remote area of Nova Scotia whose tranquil life takes an unusual turn when he stumbles on a mysterious stranger in the woods bleeding from a gunshot wound with a suitcase of cash in hand. Equal parts gangster movie, thriller and coming out story, Hannam credits the genre-busting plot to his fantastical childhood tendencies. Never seeing Indigenous or queer characters on screen growing up, he would reimagine stories that came beaming through the family TV from different perspectives, sometimes latching onto a character in the background and crafting alternate narratives for them. "I was lucky in that respect because I had an active imagination so I could envision different possibilities," he told CBC Arts. "At the same time, never seeing yourself on TV and film takes a toll. Being inundated with white heterosexual stories starts to make you feel invisible." Read more about Hannan here.
For his highly acclaimed 2016 film Operation Avalance, director Matt Johnson infiltrated NASA, saying he and his team were shooting a documentary about the Apollo program in the 1960s. The footage they shot as a result was mixed with archival materials to create a mockumentary that audiences have been raving about from its Sundance debut to when it was nominated for six Canadian Screen Awards this part March. Surely just the beginning of a major career, you can read more about Johnson and Avalanche here.
In under a year, CBC Arts profiled Jones twice: first for Fire Song, the story of a gay Anishnaabe teenager living on a reserve in Northern Ontario; then for Great Great Great, where he teamed up with Sarah Kolasky, with whom he's made a number of short films since they met as students at Ryerson, to explore relationships. Though very different films, both had semi-autobiographical elements, and they collectively heralded a strong new voice in Canadian film. Read more about Jones here and here.
"It's different when you read a news story and you're reading and taking in the information," Latimer told CBC Arts when we spoke to her earlier this year. "Art can hit people on a visceral level in that it emotionally connects. I think when you affect someone in that way, it's a different kind of call to action that can be quite profound." She was speaking with respect to her Viceland-produced documentary series Rise, which debuted at Sundance this year and takes us to the front lines of global Indigenous resistance at a moment when that fight could not feel more crucial. Read more about Latimer and Rise here.
After winning much acclaim for her debut film Werewolf on the festival circuit last year (a film that just so happens to be being released on iTunes next week), Ashley McKenzie agreed to write an essay for CBC Arts in honour of National Canadian Film Day, discussing a homegrown film that influenced her own work. "Generally Canadian feature films — that I get to see at least — have a prerogative to please," she wrote. "They're polite-mannered, risking very little and so their impact is negligible. Vic + Flo Saw a Bear, however, is provocatively irreverent and cruel." Read more of McKenzie's essay here, and check out Werewolf if you haven't already. Sooner or later, a young filmmaker will describe it as the film that influenced their work.
Another filmmaker that participated in our National Canadian Film Day essay series was Chelsea McMullan, and she did so...on an Air Canada flight. "I'm just about to board an Air Canada flight to Buenos Aires when I get an email asking if I want to write this essay about a Canadian film that's influenced me," she wrote. "The context seems immediately relevant because I think Canadian film has an interesting relationship with Air Canada. I can't pretend it isn't where I catch up on a lot of Canadian cinema — I'm a bit sheepish to admit it, but I know I'm far from alone in this." Read more of McMullan's essay here, and definitely check out her many incredible films, from My Prairie Home to World Famous Gopher Hole Museum.
In honour of her 36th birthday earlier this year, Shraya released perhaps her most personal and vulnerable piece of work yet in the fearlessly-entitled short "I want to kill myself." Featuring photography from Zachary Ayotte, the eight-and-a-half minute portrait of Shraya's relationship to her suicidal thoughts is available on Vimeo to view for free. "My biggest hope is that people watch the film," Shraya told CBC Arts. "Given our decreasing attention spans and the amount of online content we are flooded with, seeking an audience for an almost nine-minute short, let alone a short that delves into suicide, unfortunately feels like a big ask." Read more about Shraya and that specific film here.
When Alanis Obomsawin was told she could give $50,000 of post-production funds to any Canadian filmmaker, she didn't hesitate: she named Amanda Strong. "I immediately thought of her," Obomsawin, an officer of the Order of Canada and two-time Governor General's Award winner, told CBC Arts. "When I saw her last film (Four Faces of the Moon), I was very touched by it, very impressed by her work. She obviously has important stories to tell." We agree, and you can read more about why here.
Tune in to The Filmmakers every Saturday at 8:30pm (9pm NT) on CBC Television or stream it online at cbc.ca/watch.