VIFF Staff Picks – Best Canadian Films, Part One
It’s that time of the year again. Our annual Canadian Film Week is taking place from April 14-23 at VIFF Vancity Theatre! This time around, we have a packed line up of 19 films and short programmes spread over 27 screenings. Eight of the programmes are directed by women, three films are from Quebec, and five programmes are by Indigenous filmmakers. This is going to be a great celebration of Canadian film!
As we countdown to the festivities, here at the VIFF offices, we asked staffers to share their favourite Canadian films of all time. With the great response we received, we’ve decided to split this article into three parts (parts two and three will be shared next week so stay tuned). Take a read through, share your thoughts and tell us what your favourite Canadian films are!
Entre la mer et l’eau douce (1967)
“I saw Entre La Mer et L’eau Douce (Drifting Upstream, 1967) while doing my film studies at Concordia in Montreal, a newcomer to the city and the country. It was the first feature film by Michel Brault, later renowned for his searing documentary Les Ordres about the War Measures Act in 1970 Montreal, which remains to date the only Canadian film to garner a Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival. It’s the story of a folk singer who leaves rural Quebec, deserting his aboriginal lover with a shrug, for the big city lights of Montreal with his guitar in hand as he drifts through jobs and love affairs including one with waitress Geneviève, played by Geneviève Bujold. He eventually finds success as a singer but his solitude remains. The film made a strong impression on me with its poetic evocation of the province’s wintry landscape and cityscape with locales unique to the city – the cafés, the duplex apartment building, the dépanneur – captured in limpid B&W cinematography and tableau-like visuals. A gentle observation of its characters with their melancholic longings and inchoate yearnings, it offers a subtle examination of Quebec society in transition, with its nascent quest for identity and independence from the Anglo dominance of the time.” – Pochu AuYeung, VIFF Program Manager & Senior Programmer.
The Saddest Music in the World (2003)
“Isabella Rossellini with legs made of glass and filled with beer; Mark McKinney as a shady character with an even shadier mustache; Guy Maddin’s snow-filled Winnipeg – It doesn’t get more Canadian than this. It had me at “If you’re sad and like beer, I’m your lady”. – Brie Koniczek, Volunteer and Membership Engagement Manager
The Sweet Hereafter (1997)
“OK, so I’m a big fan of all Guy Maddin films, but I think my favourite film, or the film that has stuck with me the most is Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter.”
From Cinematheques Canada Screens (2017):
‘The Sweet Hereafter is a 1997 Canadian drama film written and directed by Atom Egoyan, starring Ian Holm, Sarah Polley and Bruce Greenwood and adapted from the novel of the same name by Russell Banks. The film tells the story of a school bus accident in a small town that results in the deaths of numerous children. A class-action lawsuit ensues, proving divisive in the community and becoming tied with personal and family issues. Although The Sweet Hereafter was not a box office success, it was critically acclaimed and won three awards, including the Grand Prix, at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival, along with seven Genie Awards, including Best Motion Picture. It also received two Academy Award nominations, for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. Toronto International Film Festival critics named The Sweet Hereafter one of the top 10 Canadian films of all time.’
“I can’t really pinpoint the exact reason why this film stuck with me. Yes, it is beautifully shot and acted, but more importantly, Egoyan alters how the viewer experiences the tragic story. In this “poem of familiar pain” he’s created a hauntingly, intelligent and touching look at grief and the human condition.” – Laine Slater, Marketing Director
Souvenir of Canada (2005)
“One of my faves is Souvenir of Canada ( Douglas Coupland). It’s a film about what it means to be a Canadian and inspired me to come here. :)” – Theatre Manager
Join us from April 14-23 for Canadian Film Week. See you at the theatre!