By: Jennifer Modica
TORONTO, ON – Prominent Canadian filmmakers participated in the successful second season of REEL CANADA, an innovative festival designed to bring Canadian films into Canadian classrooms. The 2006/2007 season presented 54 screenings to more than 5,000 students with over 30 special guests in tow.
The extensive guest list who attended the festival included directors Deepa Mehta (Water), Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter), Don McKellar (Last Night), Paul Gross (Men with Brooms), Allan King (EMPz 4 Life), Peter Lunch (Project Grizzly), Peter Raymont (Shake Hands with the Devil) and others who hold the festival in high esteem. Filmmaker, Atom Egoyan said: “My experience with REEL CANADA was fantastic. There is no question in my mind that this program is the key to the success of Canada’s film industry in the long run. We should have been doing this years ago.”
According to David Cronenberg it has a unique educational value: “Not only is it a unique method to teach high school students about film analysis and the film industry, but it is an intriguing way to educate them about Canadian films.” REEL CANADA is addressing a cultural necessity with this festival to present and maintain a dialogue about Canadian stories.
Students participating in the festival described the event as beneficial, enjoyable, and were gracious about having the opportunity to be exposed to Canadian films. K. Yuen, a Grade 12 student said, “I don’t think I’ve ever watched a Canadian film before, but the two I watched raised my interest in them because they were quite different from Hollywood films. There’s a depth and quality that is rarely present in Hollywood.”
Among the most talked about films screened included the Quebecois blockbuster C.R.A.Z.Y., internationally acclaimed drama, Water, and documentary EMPz 4 Life. The diversity of the films themselves added to the experience, according to the REEL CANADA Team, “If the point of view or the style was a bit different than usual, it was all the more interesting because they’re ours. They belong to us.”
REEL CANADA was created by a committee of some of Toronto’s foremost filmmakers and producers in 2005 to bring Canadian films into Canadian classrooms. Participating schools screen films chosen by the schools from a program of features, documentaries, animated pieces and shorts. Special guests such as actors, directors and other personalities present the films and take part in Q&A session with the students.
In the future, REEL CANADA hopes to expand into new communities across the country in a move which will not only increase audiences for Canadian films but also help the education system move forward in nurturing a sense of cultural identity among young Canadians. Following a successful second season, REEL CANADA is a little bit closer to making this vision a reality.