As It Happens

Why a South Carolina university is hosting a Canadian film festival

Students in South Carolina munched on poutine and pineapple pizza Wednesday as they enjoyed a selection of Canadians films in both French and English.

French instructor with a passion for the north brings Canadian Film Day to Coastal Carolina University

Chauncey, left, Coastal Carolina University's mascot, snacks on popcorn and watches Canadian cinema with and Maurice the moose, Reel Canada's National Canadian Film Day mascot. (Coastal Carolina University Marketing & Communication)

Story Transcript

Students in South Carolina munched on poutine and pineapple pizza Wednesday as they enjoyed a selection of Canadians films in both French and English.

Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., has become the newest international hub of Reel Canada's National Canadian Film Day, an annual celebration of Canadian cinema. 

"The student body here doesn't really know anything about Canada, I found, and they're receiving it in a very positive way," Brad Warren, a French instructor who helped organize the event, told As It Happens guest host Dave Seglins.

"They know Drake's Canadian, but that's just about it."

So how did a Canadian film festival end up with a South Carolina offshoot?

It was the brainchild of Warren, who briefly lived in Toronto and has a passion for all things Canadian, and his Canadian wife, Tanja Warren, the school's Student Services Center program manager.

"We both love Canadian film and literature," Warren said.

Coastal Carolina University French teacher Brad Warren, right, and his Canadian wife, Tanja Warren, the school’s Student Services Center program manager, came up with the idea to host a National Canadian Film Day event on campus. (Coastal Carolina University Marketing & Communication)

Warren is a teaching associate at the school's French language program. When his department was soliciting ideas for events to hold on campus, he pitched Canadian Film Day.

"My experience as a French instructor in the United States has been that most things are concentrated very heavily on France and not a whole lot else," he said.

"When you think of French, you think of France. When you think of English, you think of England. But, you know, Canada is just really overlooked in a lot of ways. And I think that a lot more success could come to Canadian arts and cultures in the states if we keep doing these types of things."

Buddy cop comedy and Indigenous drama

The films on the roster include Indian Horse, a critically acclaimed drama based on Ojibway writer Richard Wagamese's novel about a residential school survivor and hockey player.  Reel Canada has made it a point this year to highlight Indigenous films.

There's also Guibord S'en Va-T-En Guerre (My Internship in Canada), about an independent politician who holds the swing vote on Canada's decision to go to war in the Middle East.

The Red Violin tells the story of a perfectly crafted 17th-century violin finished with a mysterious red glaze sitting in a Montreal auction house waiting to be sold.

And for a splash of fun, Bon Cop, Bad Cop is an action comedy about an English speaking police officer from Ontario teaming up with a French-speaking officer from Quebec to solve a "lurid" hockey-related crime committed on the border between the provinces.

Poutine made with Wisconsin cheese curds is served up at the National Canadian Film Day festival in Conway, S.C. (Coastal Carolina University Marketing & Communication)

And while the students watch, they're also taking in some Canadian cuisine.

The campus dining hall, Hick's, has whipped up some ginger beef, a Canadian-Chinese food that originated in Calgary, pineapple pizza, created by late Ontario restaurateur Sam Panopoulos, and of course, poutine.

"And I'm going to tell you, it's not exactly the same thing. I've had it today. It's pretty good. They did an all right job, but it's not Quebec cheese curds, OK?" Warren said. "They got Wisconsin cheese for this."

For Warren, the real fun of the festival is watching his students learn more about their northern neighbours. 

Deprived of Canadian Heritage Minutes, they were shocked to learn, for example, that Winnie the Pooh is a Canadian creation, or that insulin was invented in Canada. 

They were also unaware that much of the pop culture they enjoy today comes from north of the border. Warren just recently informed them, for example, that Keanu Reeves was raised in Toronto.

"It's so easy for Canadian arts and culture to get mixed in with American arts and culture," Warren said. "A lot of people would say the opposite, but I find [Canada] different from the United States, and I think it's its own unique entity."

Actor Sladen Peltier plays Saul Indian Horse in a film adaptation of the novel Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese. (Courtesy Elevation Pictures)

Even more American students will soon learn about Canadians arts and culture, if Warren has anything to say about it.

He says he's already been in touch with a colleague at another U.S. university looking to host its own Canadian Film Day screenings.

"So it may be at a different one as well next year," he said. 

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Chloe Shantz-Hilkes.

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