Free film screenings during Canada Day week prove Canuck films don't suck

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      As Hollywood continues its imperial domination of worldwide box offices, one of the casualties has been Canadian cinema, to the point that even Canadians are unfamiliar with the challenges that Canadian screen industries face.

      Canadian films don’t have the budgets or corporate muscle that Hollywood films do, to the extent that our domestic films even struggle to get into our own theatres. Just ask the First Weekend Club, an initiative which was designed to help give Canadian films a chance to compete against Hollywood blockbusters on opening weekends at our own box office.

      It's a vicious cycle: the less that viewers support Canadian films, the more these films struggle at the box office, the harder it becomes to develop quality Canadian films, and the more we lose our own homegrown talent to the U.S.

      For people who have the erroneous idea that Canadian films aren't very good, the yearlong Canada on Screen series at the Cinematheque (1131 Howe Street)—to celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary—is an opportunity to acquaint yourself with some critically acclaimed and internationally respected Canadian films. And to learn about stories about our own people, culture, and identity.

      For Canada Day week from Saturday (July 1) to Friday (July 7), Canada on Screen will be presenting its centerpiece program.

      While we previously mentioned some highlights in our Week in Widescreen column, there are screenings every day of the week to take note of. And they're all free. Yes, free. Like Canada, strong and free.

      Jesus of Montreal

      Things kick off on Saturday (July 1) with several films, including Denys Arcand's 1989 satirical drama Jesus of Montreal, which questions institutional religion as an actor finds his life increasingly resembles the life of Jesus as he and his acting troupe stage an avant-garde Passion play.  

      The Sweet Hereafter

      In the 1997 drama The Sweet Hereafter (July 2), filmmaker Atom Egoyan adapted Russell Banks's novel by transposing it within a B.C. Interior town as the community faces struggles in the wake of a fatal school-bus accident. It stars Ian Holm, Sarah Polley, and Bruce Greenwood and it received two Academy Award nominations.


      The much-lauded Xavier Dolan's 2014 Mommy (July 3) is a powderkeg of a drama that further develops some of the themes explored in his audacious 2009 debut feature J'ai tué ma mere (I Killed My Mother).

      My Winnipeg

      For fans of phantasmagoria (or just weird things), the work of Canada's answer to David Lynch is a must-see. Guy Maddin's 2007 loosely autobiographical, playfully surreal My Winnipeg (July 5) is a very unconventional (to say the least) love letter to the Manitoban city.

      Dead Ringers

      For those who want thrills and chills, David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers (July 7) closes out the week, with a 1988 psychological horror-thriller in which Jeremy Irons plays identical twin gynaecologists who switch identities—until they begin to compete for the same woman (Geneviève Bujold).

      Of course, this wouldn't be complete without one of Canada's most watched TV dramas, Anne of Green Gables. A new restoration of the 1985 CBC TV miniseries, starring Megan Follows as the titular heroine from PEI, will screen in two parts on Monday (July 3). With the new 2017 adaptation having premiered in March, this screening is a chance to take a look at the first of CBC's adaptations of Lucy Maud Montgomery's novels.

      There's more to choose from in this week's program. To browse through all the titles, visit the listings on the Cinematheque website.

      And even after this week is over, the Canada on Screen series will continue all year long, folks. For more information on what's on, visit the Cinematheque webpage for full details. The fact that they're running all year long and are free of charge (therefore making them accessible to everyone of any or no income), you no longer have an excuse not to catch some quality Canadian cinema this year. You can't get more Canadian than that.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook