We have a lot to celebrate in Canada and one area we are most proud of is our talented film industry. On April 17, we are all invited to grab our popcorn bags and celebrate National Canadian Film Day! Whether it’s at home or in the theatre with friends and family there are many ways we can participate!

Major broadcasters and streaming services are also getting involved by offering Canadian films to enjoy in the comforts of your own space.

And there’s something for everyone:

Expect HUNDREDS of screenings across the country at film festivals, cinemas, libraries, community centres, schools, friendship centres, retirement residences, art galleries, military bases and more!

There will also be events for new Canadians and English-language learners.

Globally, events are once again being  planned  in partnership with Global Affairs Canada.

You can get all the updates on social media on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok @CanFilmDay and #CanFilmDay

Host Your Own Screening Event for FREE:

We know it’s probably still March when you’re reading this but it’s never too early to start planning! You can also host your own screening event in your own community! Visit canfilmday.ca/register and sign up. A full list of films you can access is listed on the site. This year’s theme features films that A.I. could never make! Proof that no algorithm can replace the passion, soul, and personal vision at the heart of the 50 incredible films made by Canadian humans for Canadian humans. See the full list at canfilmday.ca/spotlight.

National Canadian Film Day is presented by REEL CANADA — a charitable organization that promotes the diversity of Canadian film and its power to spark important conversations about what it means to be Canadian.

Just in case you are looking for some ideas, here are a few! Some films are new-to-me and a few I’d love to revisit that I’ve managed to catch at TIFF, Hot Docs, and other film festivals including award-winners…

National Canadian Film Day

Film Recommendations:

I Like Movies (2022) directed by Chandler Levack. A true movie for movie lovers,  Levack’s debut feature is a charming coming of age story that perfectly captures small-town Canadian adolescence. Lawrence (Isaiah Lehtinen), an awkward and anxious 17-year-old cinephile living in Burlington, ON, in the early 2000s, believes that he is on the path to a legendary filmmaking career – but so far it’s only gotten him as far as a job at the local video store. His blind ambition combined with his unique worldview confounds even those closest to him, and he soon starts to alienate his new manager and even his best friend, forcing him to decide what he’s willing to sacrifice on the road to potential success.

Beans (2020) directed by Tracey Deer (Mohawk). Beans takes place at the height of the 1990 Mohawk Resistance at Kanehsatà:ke (also known as the Oka Crisis), a 78-day standoff between Indigenous land defenders, Quebec police, the RCMP and the Canadian military, over the proposed expansion of a golf course on to a Mohawk burial ground. Twelve-year-old Tekehentahkhwa (nicknamed “Beans”, played by Kiawentiio) is forced into an early coming of age by these events, as her innocence turns to anger over the treatment of her people.

Drawing from her own experiences as a child, director Deer provides a poignant and engaging chronicle of these real-life events that shook the nation, as well as a much-needed look at how the traumatic events impacted youth in the community.

Beans - Tracey Deer - Indigenous filmmaker - Canadian Films

Night Raiders (2022) directed by Danis Goulet (Cree/Métis)is a compelling and propulsive dystopian thriller grounded in an allegory for the residential school system, Night Raiders is the story of Niska (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers), a Cree mother in an impossible situation. As she travels across a war-torn Turtle Island (North America), she is caught in a desperate attempt to save her daughter from a state-run forced re-education camp. With the world against her, Niska joins forces with a group of underground resistance fighters seeking to free their children and save their future.

RU (2023) directed by Charles-Olivier Michaud an adaptation of  Kim Thúy’s Governor General award-winning novel. – After a perilous journey across the pacific, a family of Vietnamese refugees settles in Montreal, in the hopes of starting a new life. Through a series of flashbacks, the whole picture of their story comes into view, as seen by the youngest family member, Tinh (Chloé Djandji), who is still processing the trauma of what they left behind, and struggling with her new setting and language.

Blackberry (2023)  directed by Matt Johnson. From its humble origins in Waterloo, ON, in 1996, nobody expected the massive global success that the world’s first smartphone would become. Nobody, that is, except Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton). Taking a chance on then-struggling startup Research in Motion (RIM), he joins BlackBerry creators Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel) and Douglas Fregin (Matt Johnson) as co-CEO. Together, they form a massive multinational tech giant, but the power and wealth soon begin to eat away at their relationship, putting everything they built into jeopardy.

This high-stakes comedy is based loosely on the true story of the extraordinary development and spectacular demise of the Blackberry.

Sharkwater (2006) directed by Rob Stewart. Driven by a life-long fascination with sharks, filmmaker Stewart sets out to dispel the myth that these majestic creatures are bloodthirsty, merciless monsters who prowl the seas in search of tasty swimmers.

Filmed in gorgeous high-definition video, Sharkwater takes you into shark-filled oceans, exposing the true nature of sharks as well as the way human interference has turned this noble predator into prey. Stewart teams up with a rogue environmentalist group on a breathtaking adventure to battle shark poachers around the globe. His incredible journey will make you see sharks in a whole new light.

Stewart was an award-winning journalist and filmmaker, whose docs Sharkwater, and Revolution earned awards at festivals worldwide. A tireless activist, Stewart was credited with saving a third of the world’s sharks. He tragically passed away in 2017.

Brother (2022) directed by Clement Virgo. A beautifully shot master work of subtle, affecting storytelling. Adapted from David Chariandy’s award-winning novel of the same name, Brother tells the story of Francis and Michael, two Black Canadian brothers growing up in Scarborough in the early 1990s. Recently immigrated to Canada, the brothers navigate the challenges of growing up outsiders, with feet in two worlds.

Seven Veils (2023) directed by Atom Egoyan. After the death of her mentor, Jeanine (Amanda Seyfried) takes over the task of directing his production of the opera Salome, a piece they had collaborated on previously, to create his most celebrated work. But with the spectre of their complicated relationship still affecting her decisions, and mounting problems within the cast and crew as well as her personal life, Jeanine’s whole world could come crashing down at any second. This psychological thriller was shot on location at Toronto’s Four Seasons for the Performing Arts.

TIFF 2023

Long Time Running (2017) directed by Nicholas de Pencier, Jennifer Baichwal. Chronicles the emotional and epic 2016 tour that The Tragically Hip embarked on after iconic frontman Gord Downie announced that he had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Intimate moments, behind-the-scenes and on-stage footage, personal interviews with the band and close friends reveal the heart-breaking final performances of that now-legendary final tour.

No other band encapsulated the rugged soul of Canada quite like the Hip, and it was completely in character for Downie – the everyman poet laureate of Canada – to go out on his own terms, with a powerfully galvanizing tour that delivered some of the most exhilarating performances of band’s history.

Anthropocene: The Human Epoch (2018) directed by Jenifer Baichwal, Edward Burtynsky, Nicholas de Pencier. In 2016, scientists declared that the Earth has entered a new geological era, one that is entirely the consequence of humanity’s abuse of the planet. This documentary goes around the world illustrating the variety of ways that humanity has affected its environment.

In Kenya, authorities set fire to mounds of elephant tusks to protest the illegal ivory trade, resulting in a devastating display of the impact of poaching. In Russia and Germany, mining operations transform the land into an otherworldly wasteland. The unfathomable scale of the images created by these moments are equal parts beautiful and disturbing.

Following Manufactured Landscapes and Watermark, photographer Edward Burtynsky and filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier conclude their award-winning trilogy with an urgent message to all the citizens of the world to see the consequences of our actions, before it’s too late.

Map To The Stars (2014) directed by David Cronenberg. The Weiss family seem to be living the Hollywood dream. They have money, fame, the envy of their peers, and more than their fair share of skeletons in their closet. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack) is a TV self-help therapist with an A-list clientele. Meanwhile, Cristina (Olivia Williams) has her work cut out managing the career of their disaffected child-star son, Benjie (Evan Bird), freshly out of rehab at age 13.

Unbeknownst to them, another member of their brood has just arrived in town – the mysteriously scarred Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), recently released from a psych ward. Agatha befriends a limo driver (Robert Pattinson) and becomes the assistant to one of Stafford’s clients, (Julianne Moore) who is haunted by the abuse she suffered at the hands of her legendary mother (Sarah Gadon).

A wickedly funny trip into the depravity of Hollywood and a compelling meditation on the ways family can haunt us both literally and figuratively.

A Few Classics…

I’ve Heard the Mermaids Sing (1987) directed by Patricia Rozema. In Patricia Rozema’s fanciful character study, aspiring photographer Polly (Sheila McCarthy) lands a job at a Toronto art gallery run by Gabrielle (Paule Baillargeon), who is also a painter. Polly is impressed with Gabrielle’s paintings, but as Polly gets to know her lover Mary (Ann-Marie MacDonald) and becomes entangled in their lives, she realizes Gabrielle isn’t exactly who she appears to be.

Though timid on the outside, Polly’s inner life is rich and full of charming fantasies which Rozema brings to life in black & white sequences that punctuate the film with humour and whimsy.

The film won the award for Best First Feature at the Cannes Film Festival, and in 1993 was ranked as one of TIFF’s Top 10 Canadian Films of All Time.

Double Happiness (1994) directed by Mina Shun. Jade Li (Sandra Oh), a vivacious Chinese Canadian, wants to become an actress without upsetting her extremely traditional parents. It’s a balancing act that Jade is finding difficult to achieve. Talking in English, wearing western clothes and going out with non-Asian guys, Jade leads a secret life when she leaves her stuffy-but-warm domestic scene each day. Things come to a head when Mark (Callum Keith Rennie), a white Canadian graduate student, insists on turning their casual fling into something more meaningful. It’s a relationship that Jade’s parents would hate. What should she do?

The Changeling (1980) directed by Peter Medak. A cult classic horror film! After the tragic deaths of his wife and daughter, a move from New York to Seattle was meant to be a fresh start for composer John Russell (George C. Scott). However, when mysterious occurrences begin to escalate in the mansion he’s renting, he starts to believe that his new home is haunted, and that the spirits are looking to do him harm.

Go and check out the rest of the films and let me know what’s on your must-see list!