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Canadian Cinematography’s National Content

It is doubtless, that some historic facts can be adequately valued only years later. And at the moment looking back at the development of the Canadian cinematography one may admit that its way was not an easy one. At the moment cinema production is an integral part of the popular culture and has created a lot of masterpieces of feature films, that became the heritage of the world high culture and overcoming the featureless films policy it gained its national idiosyncrasy, but still did not find its market as the films of the Canadian origin take only 2,5 per cent of the screen time in the present-day Canada.

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“It is in cinema today that … we find all the great questions, the anguish, the problems, as well as the successes of man. A nation that does not have a feature film capability finds itself deprived of one of the most important modern means of expression” (Dorland, 111). And Canada was feeling in this way for a rather long time, as the country became one of the main consumers of the US films, oppressing its own film studios and losing a lot giving preference to special effects and tricking the eye in foreign production. A lot of Canadians joined a Hollywood Stardom without realizing that the roots for this inevitable at that period process were much deeper than it might have seemed. Pierre Trudeau, a former prime-minister of Canada explained lack of independence in Canadian cultural development, using a vivid example: “Living next to the United States is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt” (Pendakur, 33). The oppression of the national filmmakers was legislatively proved and it was not easy to break it, Ted Magder displayed the confrontation between the state policies and the filmmaking industry in his writings. Zoë Druick also insisted on the desicive role of the government policy in choosing

Ideology of NFB films

But every nation has its heroes, so does Canada. There was even a feministic filmmaking studio D, which was founded in 1974 and closed in 1996, produced over 150 documentaries and won a lot of international awards. This women’s movement made a great contribution to the Canadian films heritage, displayed not only the problem of a woman’s role in a men’s dominated society but turned to the questions of the nuclear war and environmental pollution as well. The names of Kathleen Shannon, Rina Fraticelli and Ginny Stikeman, who became the executive producers of the D studio, will be mentioned in the textbooks on the history of cinema in the future. Another heroic woman worth mentioning in the essay is Nell Shipman, a pioneer in the feature films history of Canada. Armatage, Kay wrote Nell’s working biography, consisting of excerpts from 1939 letters, naming the book “heroic displays of (at times, delusional) optimism, her lively wit and imagination, and her constant attempts to reinstate herself in the film industry” (Armatage, 342) Every her minute Nell was thinking about the ways to change the existing situation, sacrificing her personal life and feelings.

Close to broke after the fiasco of The Girl from God’s Country, Nell Shipman and Bert Van Tuyle had to sell the house in Highland Park, California, as well as the new car that they had bought in the first flush of the financing. The furniture, baby grand piano, and heirlooms were put in storage while the couple set about to raise money for another feature, The Grub-Stake (Armatage, 212).

But her efforts were not put in vain and thanks to such activists the national feature films get their position in the present-day popular culture.

Due to historical and political reasons Canada is deprived of the classics of cinematography, but a lot of relatively fresh wonderful films got their audiences and have reached even the world market. The multinational country at last has the opportunity to choose the films they watch though the imported film production still prevails.


Armatage, Kay. Girl From God’s Country. University of Toronto Press. 2003: 420.

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Dorland, Michael. So Close to the State/s: The Emergence of Canadian Feature Film Policy. University of Toronto Press. 1998: 184.

Pendakur, Manjunath. Canadian Dreams and American Control: The Political Economy of the Canadian Film Industry. Wayne State University Press. 1990: 329.

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