Fresh filmmakers rewrite script for Canada
New, young directors are helping Canada’s movie industry to step out from under Hollywood’s shadow, filmmakers at the Fifth Beijing International Film Festival said.
This year’s festival, which closed Thursday, featured seven movies from Canada, each offering audiences in the Chinese capital a glimpse into a different aspect of North American culture.
“We met with directors from all over the world during the festival. We were very excited,” director Jeremy Thomas said. His entry in the festival, Ally Was Screaming, is about two friends who find a winning lottery ticket at a dead friend’s home and is a reflection on temptation.
Thomas and his producer Colin Sheldon were among the Canadian filmmakers invited to the Canadian Embassy of China on Tuesday to talk with Chinese colleagues.
“We’ll also be going to visit Zhangjiajie, the inspiration for James Cameron’s floating mountains of Pandora in his blockbuster Avatar,” he said.
Co-productions between Canada and China are becoming more common, with Transfilm International, a major studio in Montreal, reportedly in negotiations to make a range of movies with a Chinese film company.
Many Canadian movie stars are already big names in China, such as Cameron, Jim Carrey and Ryan Gosling, but their fame is largely thanks to Hollywood.
“Canada is in a unique situation. Most Canadians can speak English, so our cultural content is often easily dominated by the Americans,” Sheldon said. “Our government has tried to regulate the film industry to ensure Canadian content has a chance, but a lot of films done in Canada are for the Americans.”
Major studios regularly use cities in Canada as locations for movies set in the United States due to cost incentives, with Vancouver’s movie industry even nicknamed Hollywood North.
The good thing is, Sheldon said, “we have created an infrastructure that Canadian filmmakers can also use”.
Preggoland, about a 35-year-old woman who fakes being pregnant to fit in with her friends, was one of the Canadian films best received by festival audiences, prompting one reviewer to suggest remaking it in Chinese.
“Some Chinese filmmakers have talked to me about the possibility,” co-producer Aaron Au said.
The 34-year-old, who was born in Hong Kong and is now based in Vancouver, is a kung fu master who has worked as a stuntman on Hollywood hits, including X-Men, Godzilla and The Fantastic Four. He has also trained Chinese action stars. Preggoland is the second film he has produced.
Despite the Canadian government attempting to promote Canadian movies abroad, he said the work of filmmakers should simply speak for itself.
“Organization such as the Canadian Broadcasting Company have been pushing Canadian content, but I think it’s pretty boring,” Au said. “It’s just all about making a good movie, and then we can get into other markets.
“For example, the South Koreans make great movies. They don’t mind making their country look bad, as long as it’s a good movie,” he added.
Canadian movies have already enjoyed some success overseas, particularly those made in the French-speaking province of Quebec. In 2004, comedy Les Invasions Barbares, a co-production between Canada and France, won the Oscar for best foreign language film.
And in the Toronto International Film Festival, founded in 1976, Canada boasts one of the most prestigious events on the movie world’s calendar.
“Most Canadian films today are story-driven and made by new directors,” said Lindsay Mackay, whose directorial debut, Wet Bum, about a selfconscious teenage girl who strikes an unlikely friendship with two residents at a retirement home, was also entered in the festival.
“Hollywood has overpowered the Canadian film industry. … Canada has realized that, and it is providing a platform, as well as finance, to new filmmakers like me,” she said.
The Beijing International Film Festival, now in its fifth year, is becoming a major venue for movie industries worldwide.
This year, guests included action star and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, French director Luc Besson, and rising stars such as ChineseCanadian actor Mark Chao.
A still from International Film Festival.
one of seven Canadian films screened during the 5th Beijing