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The Canadian government’s role in media production and
distribution is not unique to Canada. An assessment of ten jurisdictions by
Telefilm Canada returned a comparative overview of the regulations of Canadian
content eligible for government support, alongside Australia, Belgium, France,
Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, and the United
Kingdom (Telefilm Canada, 2015). The study ultimately found that the
requirements of Canadian producers are more rigid and more costly than the nine
other producing nations under examination (ibid.). These findings, in
conjunction with the claim made by Davis and Kaye that Canadian films find the
worst domestic representation in the world, put forward the position that the
current state of government aid to the Canadian film industry is simply too
rigid to perform its role effectively (Telefilm Canada, 2015; Davis and Kaye,
2011).

               Canada’s
CRTC is well-known to have imposed “Canadian Content” requirement on television
and radio broadcasts, wherein “there is a minimum amount and type of original Canadian programming that
have to be scheduled in prime time and daytime slots. Canadian content is
defined by the number of Canadians in creative positions,” (Coles, 2010) which
is similar to the requirements for Canadian filmmakers (Telefilm Canada, 2015).

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DEVELOPING
NATIONAL CULTURAL IDENTITY

               A
significantly recurring sentiment in the literature surrounding Canadian
filmmaking discusses the problem of representing a unified Canadian identity.
Indeed, “the most common and
urgent sentiment emerging from the national discourse around Canadian film and
television in the last decade is the repetitively stated necessity, for
purposes of cultural and national survival, of ‘telling our own stories'”
(Davis and Kaye, 2011, 70). This pattern of thought within the realm of working
professionals is reflective of media theorist Arthur Siegels’ four prescribed
“problems” for Canadian media: geographic factors, wherein Canadians’
day-to-day experiences and identities vary significantly based on the size of
the country itself; population distribution, the physical sparsity of Canadians
across the country; the proximity of the United States, with respect to the
immensity of the US film industry and its consumption in Canada; and, finally,
linguistic and cultural plurality, or the differences in cultural identity that
exist in a country inhabited by an enormous population of different cultural,
ethnic, and national origins (Siegel, 1983). The 2011 survey of industry
professionals acknowledges that while Canadians often say they would like to see Canadian films, few people actually go
to see them (Telefilm Canada, 2017; Davis and Kaye, 2011). According to
Telefilm, the most important element of “Canadianism” to audiences is the
reflection of a Canadian landscape (Telefilm Canada, 2017). This, too, however,
confronts one of Siegel’s four “problems.”

               According
to Baker, the use of Canadian landscapes by US producers that is encouraged
through foreign location shooting actually presents Canadian audiences with a
confusing representation of their own identities (Baker, 2015). In the more
popular US productions, “Canadianism” and the northern landscape is often
portrayed as wild, blank frontier to which American identity is juxtaposed
(Baker, 2015). In step with Siegel’s “problems,” the portrayal of Canadian
landscape in this way creates a cultural inferiority complex; “portraying  Canada 
as  the  frontier … encourages  American 
audiences  to  relate 
to  Canada  not 
as  an  independent 
entity  at  all, 
but  as  a  passive  space 
whose  role  is 
inextricably  interwoven as a
subordinate component of American history, culture, and geography” (Baker,
2015, 112). Interestingly, Telefilm did not have a majority of responses
reporting that “story” was a significantly compelling component of Canadian
film, however, Eileen Li posited in 2015 that the best improvement for the
success of Canadian films would come from increased cultural references,
Canadian talent (actors in particular), and recognizable locations (Li, 2015).
It is within this contradiction that our study finds its footing.

               The reports by Telefilm Canada suggest that Canadians
are not opposed to, and in fact are interested in, access to more Canadian-made
media. Studies of the industry landscape, however, contradict the reported
interest. The literature amounts to a case for the theory of “cultural cringe,”
wherein “Canadian viewers
suffer from … an inferiority complex that allegedly causes them to reject
Canadian content not on the basis of its quality, but simply because it is
Canadian” (Coutanche et. al, 2015, 277). With an unstable sense of identity and
confusion about whether or not Canadian audiences are interested in seeing
Canadian stories, our research project aims to identify the areas of
contradiction and shed light upon what Canadians truthfully expect from their
film industry.

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