Saturday, August 19, 2006

Finally, a Canadian film to unite us all (and why we need CanCon for films)

I got the chance today to see the film Bon Cop, Bad Cop. It's way too funny to describe it here. Just imagine what might happen if a dead body is found right on the Ontario-Québec border and two officers are assigned to it -- one English, one French. The tagline "Shoot first, translate later" is pretty -- well, à propos.

Québec has long had a very successful homegrown industry with huge audiences from both the francophone and anglophone communities, but the films are rarely shown in the rest of Canada, outside of Ottawa, except in art houses. They're successful because they tell stories people can relate to. Think of the Les Boys series (about an oversexed men's minor hockey team), or the satirical La Florida (about a Montréal bus driver who gives it all up and buys a hotel in the Sunshine State), or Revoir Julie (two female friends -- one French, one English -- reunite after fifteen years and after arguing non stop for nearly two hours suddenly click and rekindle their lesbian relationship -- oh yeah!).

By contrast, most English films in Canada are so esoteric, so out there in terms of plot, that few people even bother to see them, yet they seem to be the films that get the most nominations at the Genies. And thanks to very bizarre rules, any foreign funding automatically disqualifies a film from consideration at the Genies -- take, for example, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, a quintessentially Canadian story written by a Canadian but backed in part by Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson (Americans). OUT! If there is any justice, the French films have taken a huge lead at the Canadian Oscars the last few years, which should send a message to those who practice the craft in TROC.

Unlike so many other Canadian movies, the producers of Bon Cop Bad Cop made a point of making the plot bilingual (with subtitles) and the stereotypes that play out are done just perfectly. Pretty graphic violence and some scenes of nudity, but overall a fun time. I hope this film gets a US release. I also hope this is the start of a trend where homegrown stories that appeal to everyone get made, with wider releases and wider audiences. The Australians and British have succeeded for decades and there's no reason we can't do the same.

The only way to do this is to seed a Canadian star system. Since French Canadians do just fine on their own, I think we should have CANCON (Canadian Content) regulations for multiplexes outside of La Belle Province and the Ottawa Valley. Say, out of every eight theatres, two must show Canadian films, until such time Canadians are regularly seen by Canadians and appreciated by their own. It's way past time for us to be able to see and hear our own stories. When such a system is possible, the CanCon regs can go and with them it also will no longer be necessary to have the complicated and often bizarre system of tax credits for film production; which all too often go to Hollywood studios anyway.

Besides, the trend might wind up working in reverse and we might be able to take over Hollywood all together. Heck, we've already got many of the actors there already. Why not give the Americans our real stories, too, rather than the stereotypes about Mounties and the weird passion we have with poutine?

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