CANADIAN CULTURE THROUGH FILM
FLM 281/COR-330, Canadian Culture Through Film Spring 2021
Instructor: Jason Rodi
3 Credits at Champlain College, class held Thursdays on Zoom, 10am-12:45pm
You need to be a registered student or guest to enter the Zoom meeting.
What is Canadian cinema and how does it reflect what Canada was, is, and becoming? In exploring the Canadian film industry and its history compared to American and World Cinema, we will answer some very perplexing Canadian questions: Who and what are we? These questions of identity are key to Canadian culture, and you’ll be invited to explore them in your own work.
As a young French Canadian boy living in the Quebec countryside of the 80s and 90s, I created my sense of identity and culture through movies. Since most of those movies came from Hollywood, I identified more with America than I did with my own country. It took me studying film production in the U.S., first on the West coast then the East, and returning to my birthplace of Montreal to finally connect with my Canadian identity. But it was again through movies that I finally fell in love with where I come from.
Standing awkwardly in the shadow of the most pervasive cultural juggernaut in human history, the Canadian movie industry has been forced to stake out its own self-definition. The very fact that they can’t compete on a commercial level with Hollywood has afforded Canadian filmmakers a unique sort of freedom, sometimes to its detriment but often producing truly avant-guard works advancing cinema as a whole.
This course will look at Canadian cinema and Canadian society in tandem, observing and analyzing their reciprocal relationship. We’ll look at how those questions of identity manifest, and ask them of ourselves and our own national and individual cultures. We’ll examine Canada’s rich history of documentary and animated film and some of the great works created by the country’s Indigenous filmmakers. We’ll talk about the unique cultural bubble of Quebec cinema, insulated to some degree from the cultural pressures from the south. And we’ll see how new generations are challenging old habits and leading the country’s cinema culture into the future.
This course will help students understand the complexities of Canadian society and its various cultures/identities through the study of film. Film viewings and online meetings with local filmmakers, cinema programmers, and film archivists, will teach students about the fundamental cultural and historical characteristics of Montreal, Quebec, and Canada.
Together, not only will we explore Canadian Culture through the films that culture has produced, but we will also take a look at ourselves and what constitutes our individual cultures and national identity. Essentially you will question what makes something Canadian, other than coming from Canada, and what makes you American!
Our journey will begin with my own, my latest film and the one for which I was hired to teach this class: Voices of Freedom, a road trip to find what unites Americans. We will question whether my Canadian perspective comes through in the film, and how that might be different than an internal perspective.
Then we’ll look at the many faces that constitute the Canadian people by looking at the great legacy of documentaries they have produced. From documentaries we’ll look at the animation revolution propagated by the National Film Board of Canada, and hopefully begin to show you how influential Canadian filmmakers may have been on American culture, and vice versa.
By the end of the course, I will have expected you to question your own sense of identity, how founded in nationalism it may be, and how the media you’ve been exposed to since childhood may have shaped you.
By analyzing films and discussing your thoughts in class, you will learn about the complexities of cultural analysis. An emphasis will be made on the multi-cultural vision of Canadian spectators and the Quebecois, Anglo-Canadian and Indigenous perspectives in film. Throughout the class students will be sharing their reflections on the films, and the context in which these cultural objects are made, disseminated, viewed and shared. They will be guided to use these insights to develop and deepen their own creative practice.