Giving up American movies and television

This is a rare cross-post from this year’s side project, One Year, One Canadian. April is the month I add movies and TV to the list of consumables which must be Canadian.

Now we are getting serious.

Finding Canadian-made household goods has been a challenge, but switching toothpaste and deodorant is, by any standard, pretty much a foamy latte problem. The subsequent months–clothing and investments–have proved interesting distractions more than anything. There’s plenty more to learn in all three categories. However, April is where, to reference a famous American movie, the speeder bike hits the redwood tree.

I love going to the movies. Attending a weekday matinee by myself is one of the sweetest joys of my self-employed life. And I go to a lot of movies. In 2006, I saw 61 films in the cinema.

How many of those were Canadian? None, I’m afraid.

That’s not because I hate Canadian movies. There simply aren’t that many to see in the cinema. At any time in Vancouver, there are zero to one Canadian movies showing in the theatres. Those that are shown are often “good for me”–they’re the granola of movies. I don’t mind these movies, but it’s always an extra effort to go to them.

So, switching to only movies from the Great White North is going to be a sacrifice.

Everything Night in Canada

I don’t actually watch that much television. I’m an ardent Canucks fan, so I see most of their games. I also watch the occasional English soccer game.

After that, though, I download nearly all of my TV. Those shows are either middle-brow dramas like “Dexter” or “True Blood”, or middle-brow comedies like “Community” or “30 Rock”.

Am I loyal to any Canadian television dramas or comedies? Nope. Is that because most Canadian television can’t compare to the best American shows? I’m afraid so.

The saving grace, at least for a few months, is hockey.

What’s Canadian?

In discussing this month, people have been interested in talking about the rules. How will I identify Canadian movies and television? Does Battlestar Galactica qualify because it was shot in Vancouver with a bunch of Canadian actors? Is Juno Canadian because it’s directed by and stars Canadians?

Others bring up the Canadian Content question. Will I just refer to the CRTC’s list of approved programs? I looked into the qualifications for CanCon Television (the CRTC doesn’t oversee movies), and the requirements are pretty byzantine. Here’s the summary provided on their site:

  • The producer must be Canadian and is responsible for monitoring and making decisions pertaining to the program
  • The production earns a minimum number of points based on the key creative functions that are performed by Canadians
  • A minimum percentage of program expenses is paid for services provided by Canadians or Canadian companies

I could go the CanCon route, but there’s actually a simpler criteria. It’s like that old maxim about pornography: we know it when we see it. Danger Bay? Canadian. Battlestar Galactica. Not so much. One Week? Canuck. Juno? Nice try.

That approach may seem overly simple, but I think it’ll work just fine. What do you think? Do I need a more sophisticated approach than “Canadians can spot a Canadian production a mile away”.


  1. Usually, alas, for television there is that “eh?-dar” where I watch for a few minutes and think, “You know, this is decent, but nothing special. There’s something a little… Canadian about it.” And it often is.

    Rarely there will be something genuinely great that makes no effort to hide its Canuckness — “Da Vinci’s Inquest,” for instance. There are current-affairs comedies like the “Rick Mercer Report” and “This Hour Has 22 Minutes.” “The Nature of Things” is still strong.

    For movies, you’ll likely have to see if you can track down some Canadian classics you’ve missed over the decades to watch at home, many of them in French (but with subtitles).

    And you might find yourself listening to a lot of CBC Radio. Come to think of it, hunting for podcasts (video and audio) could make a good start too. Begin here:

  2. Actually, it’s a pity you don’t have young kids. A surprising number of young children’s animated TV shows are unquestionably Canadian. If you’re desperate, Teletoon and Treehouse are waiting for you…

  3. What about going through the Genie and Gemini nominated films and tv programs. You’ll see co-productions and there will be some foreign content.

    Shows like The Tudors count. Barney’s Version gets in there etc.

    It’s not all Rick Mercer, Little Mosque and Republic of Doyle.

  4. I saw two really fun Canadian movies on a flight to Toronto last year: “Suck,” and “This Movie Is Broken.” (And then I ran into one of the actors from Suck at VIFF, which was a neat coincidence.)

  5. Hey Darren. I’m a big lover and big supporter of Canadian cinema. Vancouver is a great place to be if you want to check out films by Canadian directors. There’s a new one screening pretty much every weekend! Get yourself on the First Weekend Club mailing list. They’ll send you an email every week with local screenings of Canadian films. I think you’ll find switching to Canadian cinema is a joy, not a sacrifice 😀

  6. Watch “The Snowwalker” a film adaptation of Farley Mowat’s book. Directed by American Charles Martin Smith but produced by Rob Merilees (a Vancouver native). Excellent movie with a very non-Hollywood ending. Shot in all Canadian locations (Churchill, Manitoba and, I believe, Saskatchewan) and with real Inuit actors.

  7. I love the Snowwalker. Also try The baby Formula, Good Cop Bon Cop, The Trotsky, One Week – come on man, Canada has lots of good stuff out there.

  8. If you’re looking for Canadian web content, I have a blog you can read…it likely meets your bronze standard, but we do discuss some international designs and concepts.

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