Celebrating local films enriches our entertainment experience and nourishes our art

Written by Adam Kline

Every May, the Canadian Screen Awards celebrate great Canadian cinema, television, and streaming content. But let’s be honest. Did you know the Canadian Screen Awards were coming up or that the nominees were announced in March? I didn’t think so. 

The Canadian industry represents distinct storytelling voices that set it apart from our American counterparts. Canadians can take pride in unique true stories like Matt Johnson’s BlackBerry (2023), award-winning documentaries like Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell (2012), or Oscar-nominated films with international perspectives like Deepa Mehta’s Water (2006), or French-Canadian filmmakers such as Denis Villeneuve. 

Canadian creative content is strong and distinct, yet usually overshadowed by the American industry. The majority of industry professionals in Canada, from assistant directors to location scouts and camera operators, are employed by major American productions in and around cities like Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver. Most Canadians don’t know about the most successful Canadian films of any given year. The Canadian industry is a small operation, largely reliant on government funding. 

Earlier this year it was announced that the federal government had renewed its investment in Telefilm Canada with $100 million over two years. This sounds like a lot of money, and it certainly will help small Canadian productions get off the ground, but by comparison, the average cost for an American television show or major studio movie that comes to Canada costs $50 million or more. So basically, the federal government just funded the equivalent of two mainstream movies. 

Due to smaller marketing budgets, filmmakers and showrunners need their audiences to help raise awareness and elevate their profile. Canadian stories need Canadian participation to help spread the word and promote their availability.

Which is why our local Canadian film festivals are so important. Across the country, and probably in your city or town, there are monthly screenings and seasonal festivals that include distinctly Canadian voices.

In March I had the opportunity to attend the Kingston Canadian Film Festival. It was a weekend full of uniquely Canadian content, along with Q&As with the filmmakers, and live events. Not only was it an opportunity for these filmmakers to screen their films, but it was also a way for them to build their audience. 

Two films stood out above the rest: The King Tide (now playing in theatres across Canada) and Suze (currently available to rent and later this year available to stream on Crave). 

The King Tide is unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s a mythic, messianic fable set on an isolated island off the coast of Newfoundland. A young child, Isla, is discovered to have healing powers and so the island community organizes itself around the child and her family, severing ties with the outside world. It’s a harrowing, unique, and atmospheric film with outstanding performances.

It’s the sort of story that can provoke deep reflection and conversation around the themes of faith, fear, and the fine line between extreme devotion and religious abuse. The King Tide has been nominated for three Canadian Screen Awards. 

Suze, by contrast, is a smart, sharp, crowd-pleasing dramedy that is sure to bring generations together. This is a heartfelt and hilarious story about parenting, middle age, mental health, and the search for acceptance. Every performer in this film is perfectly cast, especially the titular character, Suze, played by the experienced performer Michaela Watkins, and young rising star, Charlie Gillespie, who is CSA nominated for Performance in Supporting Role (Comedy). 

The King Tide and Suze are just two examples of current Canadian films that should be celebrated and more widely known. These films contribute to distinct works that enrich the Canadian canon. Celebrating them is important not just for the sake of the films themselves, but also as a way of supporting Canadian filmmaking. 

A diversity of stories, rather than simply the trending ones, will help us see and love our neighbours better. 

If you’re a film lover, consider seeking out Canadian-made movies and telling your friends about them. If you’re engaging in the arts and pursuing your own creative endeavours, you already know the value of broadening your exposure beyond top charts, bestsellers, and number-one streaming shows. 

Our understandings of our contexts are enriched when we engage with works by artists in our home towns and provinces, as well as those in cities or regions unlike our own. A diversity of stories, rather than simply the trending ones, will help us see and love our neighbours better. 

Borrowing from what Hebrews 10:24-25 teaches about Christian community, artists of faith can also lift each other up, guide one another, and spur one another on to even greater works. Our egos are gently held in check when we practice promoting the work of others as much as or more than our own. In this way, not only will we take pride in being a part of a distinct Canadian industry, but we will be found faithful in our own callings as well. 

Adam Kline leads intercultural missions for the Free Methodist Church in Canada and has a passion for storytelling. He lives in Belleville, Ont. Read more columns from “Behind the screens.”

Photo by Kashilembo Wabu.