Alita: Battle Angel - A cyborg girl’s redeeming tale of humanity

By Federico Sierra

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Based on Japanese artist Yukito Kishiro’s manga, Alita: Battle Angel tells a futuristic story of a young cyborg (with a human brain and heart in a robotic body) who wakes up without a memory of her identity. Much like the half-human, half-robot protagonist, Alita: Battle Angel is a hybrid of a movie that blends technological marvel with dramatic narrative.

Canadian filmmaker James Cameron is best known for pushing the boundaries of special effects to enhance his complex cinematic ambitions. When Cameron first came across Kishiro’s manga in the early 2000s, he realized the cinematic potential it had and began developing an adaptation for the big screen. Cameron, however, decided to channel his wizardry as a director on Avatar and its upcoming handful of sequels, while searching for another director who could do justice to his script for Alita: Battle Angel. The role was eventually given to Robert Rodriguez, an American director with a similar talent to Cameron’s, to immerse his audience in futuristic worlds while keeping them emotionally invested in his character’s experience of these worlds.

Alita: Battle Angel is set in the dystopic future of the 26th century, where the surface of the planet has turned into a decaying city of metallic junk known as Iron City. For the residents of Iron City, every day is a battle to survive, but the sight of the Sky City, which floats above them, is enough to fill them with hope and dreams. The Sky City, also known as Zalem, is the last remaining metropolis in the planet where only the wealthiest and most privileged get a chance to live, and whose expensive trash drops down on Iron City.

Scavenging among the scrap heap, Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) discovers a human head with a functioning brain which he brings back to his lab and attaches to a robotic body. The head belongs to Alita (Rosa Salazar), who wakes up to realize that she doesn’t know what happened to her, let alone who she is.

The relationship between Dr. Ido and Alita is very similar to that of Geppetto and Pinocchio. Alita reminds Dr. Ido to his deceased daughter, and after he brings her back to life, he can’t help but to protect her as if she was his own daughter. Most of their dialogues serve to explain the dos and don’ts of this complex world to the audience; but to Alita, the words of Dr. Ido are the lessons and counsel a father would give to his own child. Alita embodies a Pinocchio-like daughter figure to Dr. Ido as he guides her in her quest to find a purpose beyond the artificiality of her body. But the world is a tough place and finding oneself within it might be a dangerous endeavour that may end up corrupting one’s soul.

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The world created by Rodriguez and Cameron is a great metaphor to what it’s like to grow up in a society where it’s so easy to trade our dreams for our humanity. The clearest example of this is the character of Hugo (Keean Johnson), an all-human teenage assistant to Dr. Ido. He and Alita develop a cute relationship, where he reveals his only dream is to live up in the Sky City. Alita becomes enamoured of Hugo; she sees in him a humble human with ambition and optimism. But Alita’s naïve attraction towards Hugo has k ept her from finding the criminal activities he is involved in as means to achieve his dreams.

The main focus to develop the character of Alita gets sidetracked when more characters are introduced. Having some of these side characters played by celebrated actors like Mahershala Ali and Jennifer Connelly further distract the personal element the movie had built thus far to explore the identity of Alita. There’s also an additional subplot involving a popular sport known as Motorball, a gladiatorial race on skates which grants its winners a one-way ticket to the Sky City. By attempting to juggle so many ideas at once, Alita: Battle Angel halts its epic sci-fi prowess and suddenly feels like a bland exploitation of spectacle.

Alita: Battle Angel had the potential to match thought-provoking sci-fi movies like the recent Blade Runner 2049, but instead it fumbles like a reimagining of The Hunger Games dystopian scenario.

Despite the abundance of these faltering elements, Alita: Battle Angel works best when it follows its young protagonist. Alita is the beating heart of the movie, both in character and performance. Her journey captivated my attention and I was curious to see who she would grow up to become; so much that I didn’t even stop to consider that Salazar’s performance was 90% reproduced with CGI (employing the same performance-capture technique that was used to bring Gollum to life in The Lord of the Rings series.) Although this is Rosa Salazar’s first time in a leading role, the young actress communicates the nuances of waking up to experience life for the first time with subdued talent.

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At first glance Alita: Battle Angel may seem like a science fiction movie, but in this case the genre only serves as an excuse to display visual effects of the most sophisticated calibre. Buried deep underneath the technological achievement, there lies a coming-of-age story of a girl and her father figure, as they both learn to trust in one another to find the inner strength it takes to survive in a hopeless world.

The movie might put off the part of the audience that is looking for an illuminating story beyond simple entertainment. But if you manage to overlook its cliché plot points and let yourself be bedazzled by the ground-breaking engineering the filmmakers employed to tell Alita’s journey of self-discovery, you might find yourself hoping for a sequel.

All images were sourced from the Alita: Battle Angel trailer.

Trouble in the Garden: Indigenous Indie film brings attention to Sixties Scoop

By Bree Duwyn

A dancing scene from Trouble in the Garden (Courtesy of @troubleinthegardenthefilm on Instagram).

Award winning writer and director Roz Owen tackles important Indigenous issues in her latest film, Trouble in the Garden.

The film opened theatrically in Toronto at Imagine Cinemas Carlton Cinema and in Calgary at the Plaza Theatre throughout the week of Feb. 15 to 21. The film is also set to screen in Regina at the Rainbow Cinema Golden Mile from March 1 to 7. As well as at the Magic Lantern Roxy Theatre in Saskatoon from March 8 to 14.

Bailed out of jail and taken in by a brother she has not seen in years, Trouble in the Garden tells a story of an Indigenous protester, Raven, and her adoptive family who battle with betrayal and heartbreak.

The film is a fascinating journey that depicts a storyline that many Indigenous people faced as victims of The Sixties Scoop, a practice that took place from the late 1950s through the 1980s in which Indigenous children were taken away from their homes and placed into foster homes or put up for adoption. However, to this day there are still children being removed from their homes and put into foster care using the legal system.

Trouble in the Garden also tackles Indigenous treaty and land issues, as Raven fights for the rights of Indigenous people and their rights to land.

Owen’s inspiration in creating Trouble in the Garden comes from her sister-in-law, a Sixties Scoop survivor. She wanted to bring awareness to a topic not so often discussed.

Owen hopes to “flip people's thinking” and finds it important to use her film to bring awareness to the history of Canada’s dark past when it comes to the treatment of Indigenous peoples, she said. She also hopes that Scoop survivors who watch Trouble in the Garden will feel authenticity in the story.

To ensure she would tell the story with the most accuracy, Owen called Raven Sinclair who is Nehiyaw (Cree) from Treaty 4 located in southern Saskatchewan, a professor of social work — as well a Sixties Scoop survivor and activist.

Sinclair, who is also a filmmaker, values her work on issues of Indigenous child welfare, adoption and historical trauma and recovery.

Owen and Sinclair collaborated extensively to tell a genuine story that is raw, crucial and something that people need to talk about.

“I want people to see it and understand that everybody has a story and this story isn’t just the story of a survivor. There are themes that we need to understand to know a bit more about what our population has gone through,” said Sinclair in an interview with What She Said.

In order to nail down the dialogue in Trouble in the Garden, Owen also consulted Cara Gee, the Indigenous actress who plays Raven. Gee executes an excellent performance as the protagonist of the film — strong and capable all while being vulnerable and genuine.

Raven (Cara Gee) in a scene from Trouble in the Garden. (Courtesy of troubleinthegardenfilm on Instagram)

Owen said that a film can touch an individual on an intense level of emotion and her goal for Trouble in the Garden was to give that opportunity to the audience.

“Emotionally, I wanted to give people the opportunity to think. You can read so many statistics and get all this information but in the end, it doesn’t touch you. It can upset you but does not shake you up,” said Owen in an interview with CanCulture.

Trouble in the Garden is a heartbreaking yet beautifully crafted story that shines a light on Indigenous issues in Canada, all while maintaining a solid and truthful demonstration of the effects of the Sixties Scoop. It gives the world an opportunity to connect and forges a path towards recognition, reconciliation and respect.

Through Raven’s journey, the film depicts a storyline filled with change, growth and revelation. Raven battles with the lack of support from her adoptive family and the strenuous relationships between them, all while standing up for the rights she believes in as a protester for Indigenous lands.

Raven’s brother, Colin (Jon Car), is a real estate agent, which is problematic to her cause. Colin’s pregnant wife, Alice (Kelly Van der Berg), harbours distaste for Raven and believes she is a bad influence, especially for their young daughter, Gracie (Persephone Koty).

Once Raven is bailed out of jail by Colin, she is brought to their home, an outsider looking in on a picture perfect family, or so thought. Raven has never felt like she belonged to the family and shows moments of intense heartache when she recalls her past. She feels so distant that she pitches a tent in the backyard to escape the world and swim in her own thoughts, rather than breach the animosity and tense atmosphere within the family she never felt at home with.

Owen does an exceptional job of drawing in the audience through the emotions of Raven’s quick-tempered and fierce persona, which is evident right off the bat in the opening scene at a police station. The narrative also shows Raven’s gentleness as she timidly breaks out of her shell with the help of Gracie’s innocence and acceptance (expertly shown in an adorable scene of playing in the dirt within the garden behind the family’s house).

The audience is kept wondering about the slow-burning drama, before it implodes in a chaotic ending when Raven and Colin’s parents show up to stir up more aspects of betrayal and dishonesty, that drives home all the compelling elements of a raw story.

The Indigenous narrative in film is constantly growing and evolving within Canada, especially with the production of the Indigenous Screen Office in 2018, an organization that is assisting Indigenous media makers with the development of their content.

There is an interest in Indigenous stories due to an urgency for them to be told. Canada is in a process of Truth and Reconciliation, and the growth of the Indigenous film scene gives the opportunity to share Indigenous voices and experience.

The Oscars 2019: Canadians dominate the best short film category

By Devon Harvey

The Academy Awards are back on Feb. 24 and this year Canadians are dominating the short film categories. Bao, Weekends, and Animal Behaviour are some of the short films that are contesting to take home the gold.

Usually a majority of the awards are filled with American nominees, but this year Canadians are taking over. Filmmakers Domee Shi, Trevor Jimenez and David Fine are being praised in the film industry for having their work up for notable awards.

Canadians are nominated in the live action short film category and animated short film category.

For best live action short film

Jeremy Comte is nominated for Fauve, a short film set in a mine that details how two young boys go from playing seemingly innocent power games and having fun to being pitted against their surroundings with Mother Nature as their only witness.

Marianne Farley is nominated for Marguerite. This film tells the story of Marguerite (Béatrice Picard), an elderly woman who develops an unusual friendship with her caretaker Rachel (Sandrine Bisson). Through this friendship, Marguerite is able to confront her longing that she had hidden away and was able to make peace with her past.

In the animated category for best short film

David Fine and Alison Snowden are nominated for Animal Behaviour, this short film follows a group of animals through a group therapy session as they all attempt to come to terms and deal with the negative behaviours that come to them naturally.

A scene from  Animal Behaviour,  directed by   Canadians Alison Snowden and David Fine.

A scene from Animal Behaviour, directed by Canadians Alison Snowden and David Fine.

Domee Shi is nominated for Bao, a story about a Chinese mother who is experiencing empty nest syndrome because her son left home. She is given a second chance when one of her handmade dumplings comes to life. The story follows the mother through raising the dumpling as she did with her son. This film shows a mother’s love for her child through all stages of their lives.

In an interview with journalist Tracy Brown from the Los Angeles Times, Domee Shi spoke at great length about her short film Bao:

“My inspiration mainly came from my own life. Growing up I was that overprotected little dumpling for my Chinese mom. I was an only child living in Toronto with my parents, and they’ve always kind of watched over me and made sure I was safe — kept me really, really close. And I just wanted to explore that relationship between an overprotective parent and their child with a dumpling as a metaphor, as weird as that sounds,” said Shi.

When Brown asked Shi about the choice not to include dialogue in the animated short Shi said, “by taking dialogue out you’re really pushing and challenging yourself to tell the story with all the acting and emotion and actions of the characters...so your story could be understood by people of all ages and all backgrounds and all cultures.”

A scene from the short film  Bao,  directed by Domee Shi.

A scene from the short film Bao, directed by Domee Shi.

When Pixar picked up the Asian-Canadian short Shi explained that despite Bao was such a culturally specific film, overprotective parents learning how  to let go of their children and food bringing families together are universal themes with which people all over the world could identify.

Trevor Jimenez is nominated for Weekends, an animated short film that follows a young boy as he moves between his recently divorced parents’ homes. It couples dreamlike moments with the reality of a broken up family and home. The details of the reality of divorce and moving between parents’ houses and lives are portrayed through the eyes of a child.

I met and interviewed Trevor 12 days before the Oscars over Skype, he explained to me that the day he found out his film Weekends was nominated, his wife and him woke up really early, “The day of, was insane... it was our anniversary that day too...I almost felt like shock, like I couldn’t believe it”.   

When he finished the film just over a year ago Jimenez said, “I had friends who told me ‘Oh this is going to get nominated,’ and I never believed them...To have it do what it’s doing now is crazy.”

Jimenez said that every time he watches the film it’s different. “[it] depends on the crowd and how people react and the questions that come after. It’s always sort of shifting...I think the whole experience has shifted how I view it...For it to be validated in this way is a huge confine boost...It almost feels like a weird science experiment. It’s like oh the experiment kinda worked, like that’s how it feels. People connect with it and that’s kind of special,” Jimenez said about his short film.

When I asked him how being Canadian has affected his experience as a nominee Jimenez said, “I’m really happy that there are other Canadians, I’m very proud to be Canadian. Everyone is just really happy to be there whether or not you share that kind of nationality or not,” adding that all of the nominees are rooting for each other.

The 91st Oscars air live across the country Feb. 24th at 8 p.m. E.T.

All images were sourced from Animal Behaviour short film and Bao trailer.

Review: The European Short Film Festival at Carlton Cinema

By Ivonne Flores Kauffman

The European Short Film Festival took place on Jan. 31 at the Imagine Cinemas Carlton Cinema in Downtown Toronto. The festival featured seven short films from six European nations (France, Germany, United Kingdom, Denmark, Czech Republic), each film different from the others.

Mental health, fear, death and hope were some of the central topics of these films. All the material presented at the festival fell into one of two categories: drama or comedy, providing the audience with evoked nostalgia, anger and sadness.

Despite the serious topics addressed in these films, not all of them were well-produced.

Ponožky (Socks) is a Czech dark comedy. Presented at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival and directed by Mike Suchmann, this nine-minute film tells the story of Jidi, a man who is unable to rekindle the flame in his marriage. Sadly, his wife’s love is not the only thing that has vanished from Jidi’s life as the film revolves around his mysteriously disappeared socks, which leads him into having a surreal day.

The short comedy presents an uninterested, bored wife and a poor man whose attempts to recover the love of his life are often ignored. In one of the scenes, Jidi’s wife hosts a dinner party where he realizes she is having an affair with one of the guests. After punching the guest in the face and storming out, Jidi locks himself in the bathroom to masturbate. Soon enough, his wife knocks on the door asking him for the divorce. The last scene shows Jidi ejaculating socks all over his wife.

In my opinion, the film was not only weird but also misogynistic. Its results make it hard to emphasize with a man who does nothing to fix his marriage and would rather spend all day feeling sorry for himself. The last scene of this short film is supposed to be funny, but there was not even a hint of laughter from myself and the rest of the audience. The director’s decision to use socks to simulate Jidi’s ejaculation was confusing and offensive. To me, Suchmann’s comedy was not funny and it made me feel quite uncomfortable from beginning to end.

Ponožky was not the only short film that disappointed.  British project Tea & Coffee failed to deliver a neat production. The film directed by Maaya Modha and Adam Patel has an exciting plot about a young British-Indian woman who struggles to deal with her father’s deteriorating health, all while keeping a secret from him. This bittersweet short film shows the difficulties faced by an interracial marriage and the pain of seeing a loved one battling mental illness. Despite being extremely moving, the quality of the film lacked good shots, the scenes were poorly captured and it almost felt like it was produced by amateur filmmakers.

On the other hand, the short films that captured my attention were produced by the youngest filmmakers featured in the festival. The Boy with the Teddy, a 14-minute German film, follows the story of a kid and his teddy bear as he runs away from his dysfunctional home. After facing strangers’ indifference, the boy meets a young adult who takes care of him. Despite approaching topics such as child abuse and loneliness, this film is extremely heartwarming and full of hope.

A scene from the short film  The Boy with the Teddy  by Alessandro Schuster. (Photo courtesy of Alessandro Schuster)

A scene from the short film The Boy with the Teddy by Alessandro Schuster. (Photo courtesy of Alessandro Schuster)

Director Alessandro Schuster was only 16 years old when The Boy with the Teddy won the Platinum Award for Best Acting Ensemble and Gold Award for Best Young Filmmaker and Best Child/Young Actor at the 2018 Independent Short Awards (ISA).

In an email interview, Schuster explained that the five-day shooting presented two significant challenges. The first was to coordinate all the members of the cast and production before and during the shooting.

“Luckily it all worked great at the end! After all, everyone worked for ‘no-budget’," said Schuster.

The second challenge while filming The Boy with the Teddy came during post-production. Schuster explained that some of the scenes shot for this film were improvised. “In our film much is told through flashbacks…When editing, it was difficult to place them meaningful and good, without being exaggerated,” added the young director.

According to the Independent Shorts Awards website, Schuster, who is also an actor, is currently working on various TV productions, has produced and directed a couple of music videos and is attending school.

Another young filmmaker who presented his work at the European Short Film Festival was Jakob Hardeberg Svensen. His nine-minute production Games We Play, was shot during a Danish spring day. The film follows three 11-year-old friends’ (Johan, Clara and Felix) first encounter with death.

Behind the scenes of the short film  Games We Play.  (Photo courtesy of   Jakob Svensen)

Behind the scenes of the short film Games We Play. (Photo courtesy of Jakob Svensen)

“[Death] doesn’t have a big significance to them. At a certain age they become more interested and develop a morbid fascination for adult rituals such as funerals,” said Svensen in an email interview about his coming-of-age production.

“For me as a director the film wasn’t necessarily a story about death, but more about the memory of a timeless childhood.”  

Svensen’s inspiration to create this film came from his own childhood memories. The film’s aesthetic is composed of a range of grey and green tones, the outdoor and indoor scenes and the lack of dialogue which all work to transport the viewer to their own childhood memories. Games We Play was the most mentally stimulating film presented at the festival.

The European Short Film Festival, an excellent platform for film enthusiasts to enjoy different productions, was made possible by WILDsound. If you are interested in film festivals, check the WILDsound events website.

5 Canadian films to watch on Valentine’s Day

By Ivonne Flores Kauffman

The Fireflies Are Gone (2018)

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This film directed by Sébastien Pilote follows the story of Léonie (Karelle Tremblay), a teenager who is desperate to graduate from high school and leave the industrial town where she lives.

V-day sucks when you are single. However, instead of spending all day feeling miserable for not having a partner, buy a bottle of wine, turn off your phone and watch this entertaining film. It will make you laugh all your problems out. Tremblay’s character is so relatable that by the end of the film you will say, “F**k it” and embrace the fact that you are young, single and living a life full of possibilities.

Kingsway (2018)   

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If you hate the idea of celebrating February 14th because you have recently gone through a breakup, do not worry. We have the perfect movie for you: Bruce Sweeney’s newest production Kingsway. This movie, shot in Vancouver, portrays the struggles of life and love in a darkly funny way. According to the movie’s marketing material, “Kingsway is a romantic comedy about suicide, infidelity, and in-laws.” This Valentine’s Day you are allowed to spend all day in pajamas, eating ice cream and watching sad movies. But remember, there are plenty more fish in the sea.

Little Italy (2018)

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This romantic comedy by American director Donald Petrie is the perfect film to watch with your significant other on V-Day. Set in Toronto’s Little Italy, the film follows the complicated love story between Nikki (Emma Roberts) and Leo (Hayden Christensen), whose parents hate each other. Nikki, a successful chef, has to relocated to her hometown Toronto, where she reunites with Leo. This Romeo and Juliet inspired movie promises to deliver a chill evening full of cuddles and laughs. Don’t forget to order your favourite Italian food! We swear you will get hungry while watching it.

The New Romantic (2018)

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“Romance is dead,” writes Blake Conway (Jessica Barden), an aspiring journalist, who after years of searching for a Hollywood-style romance has given up the idea of finding love. Instead of spending all day crying for being single, Barden’s character decides to face the world and become a sugar baby, so she can finally be debt free and launch her career as a gonzo journalist.

This romantic comedy is the debut film of Canadian filmmaker Carly Stone and the winner of the 2018 SXSW Special Jury Recognition For First Feature award. This movie, full of comedy and cynicism can be enjoyed with your girlfriends, partner or even by yourself. With a super cool cast including Jessica Barden (The End of the F***king World), Brett Dier (Pretty Little Liars), Camila Mendes and Hayley Law (Riverdale)., The New Romantic is a must watch for this Valentine’s Day.

Clara (2018)

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This sci-fi love story is a great alternative if you or your significant other are looking for a more serious plot this Valentine’s Day. The movie follows the story of Dr. Isaac Bruno (Patrick J. Adams) who believes there are Earth-like planets in the universe. His new assistant Clara (Troian Bellisario) does more than helping him with his research; the pair spends endless nights debating the meaning of their existence. The connection formed between both of them leads Bruno to discover there are more things in life than numbers. Apart from having an exciting plot, the chemistry between Adams and his wife Bellisario is undeniable, and this movie is proof of it. The film will be available for rent or purchase on iTunes, The Cineplex Store and Google Play on Feb. 12.

Review: The Breadwinner

By Adriana Fiorante

The Breadwinner (2017) is an animated co-production between Canada, Ireland and Luxembourg about a young girl, Parvana (Saara Chaudry), surviving the Taliban’s seizing of her hometown, Kabul. In the plot, Taliban soldiers Idrees (Noorin Gulamgaus) and Razaq (Kawa Ada) take Parvana’s father (Ali Badshah) to prison for committing the crime of keeping forbidden books in his home and teaching women to read. The main focus of this film is the lack of rights Afghani women have under the Taliban rule. To combat the restrictions imposed on women and girls, Parvana cuts all her hair off to make herself look like a boy so she can buy food, get water, and work so her family can survive. She meets Shauzia (Soma Chhaya), another girl who is acting under the same disguise.

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Hearing the plotline, you might think The Breadwinner is similar to other animated coming-of-age films based in a war-torn Islamic country, such as Osama, Persepolis, Waltz with Bashir, or The Kite Runner. But while these films show vibrancy, detail, developed characters, and rich plotlines, The Breadwinner falls short on most of these aspects.

Overall, despite its high praise - three Canadian Screen Awards, a European Film Award, and an Oscar nod - I was disappointed. From the beginning, any threat of danger seems more like a plot device than something that instigates or motivates the characters’ arcs, as Parvana’s entire family is almost unbothered by the Taliban men wielding machine guns that surround them. At one point, Parvana’s father speaks back to a Taliban member who is armed with a gun, her mother later argues with one of them, and Shauzia and Parvana both run around the streets of their town, treating it more as a playground than a war zone. The film almost trivializes the Taliban rule to create a family-friendly film.

Some may argue that the character’s lack of fear is because the characters are all very brave, but in my opinion, it seems implausible that they would all be so unfazed by violence and willing to test their luck in front of trigger-happy extremists. For me, it felt more like there was no real threat of violence and that the soldiers were just there to show the audience that life in Afghanistan under Taliban rule is rough. Not only does nobody seem to actually worry about those keeping them from freedom, but no character suffers a fatal punishment; displaying the unrealistic idea that the Taliban members use their gun as a prop more than a tool for cruelty and oppression.

Deborah Ellis, the author of The Breadwinner novel stated in an interview with CBC news that Parvana “[is] a girl who is not at all interested in being heroic or strong or brave or anything ... But she rises to the circumstances that life throws at her.” To me, this seems like Ellis is defending herself from any criticisms of creating a one-dimensional character that has no real objectives or drive. Parvana is apparently uninterested by bravery and strength, and yet those are two fundamental themes throughout the novel and the film. What I believe Ellis and the rest of the creators of this film fail to notice is that for a woman or girl to survive in extremist areas of the globe; they cannot have a devil-may-care attitude. Women and girls of Afghanistan under Taliban-rule were forced to wear a burqa while in public at all times, were not allowed to work and were not allowed to pursue an education past the age of eight, or they face being lashed or hurt.

For the most part, the film lazily pushes through the motions of storytelling without any real passion or much attention to detail. For instance, Parvana mentions she has a brother who passed away, but his life and death is relayed in very limited detail, despite the evident fact that it affected Parvana and her family significantly. This could have been elaborated.

Additionally, the film is incomplete in its character building. Parvana’s father is one-dimensional and seemingly used as nothing but a plot device to give Parvana an objective throughout the movie. Parvana’s sister Soraya has virtually no characteristics besides fulfilling the stereotypical older sister trope - as she consistently nags Parvana and is concerned with nothing but her appearance - and being an object that her mother can arrange into a marriage.

The Breadwinner follows parallel plotlines; the second being the story of the Elephant King, a folk tale Parvana relays to her friends and family. The plotline of the Elephant King weaves together and mirrors the plotline of the primary story. It is about a young boy whose village is victim to theft by a gang of tigers who steal their crops and seeds produced in an otherwise successful farming season. The villagers will starve the following year if they do not have the seeds, and so the young boy journeys out to defeat the gang and their leader, the Elephant King, to claim their seeds back. Although the Elephant King story is a substantial part of the film that is meant to mirror the reality of Parvana’s life and act as a means of entertainment to distract those around her from their reality, it is abruptly brought up at random and inconvenient times that don’t really highlight how the plotlines are mirrored, though it sloppily attempts to do so.  

On top of all of this, the climax of the film occurs abruptly with no precursor or tension building apart from Taliban soldiers shouting in the streets that a war has started, just in time to save Parvana from certain death. The film does little to explain who is fighting against who and why they are doing so, relying on the audience to already know the details behind the Afghanistan War.

However, this lack of detail makes sense, as the majority of the film’s creators are not of South-Asian descent. Nora Twomey, a white, Irish woman directed the film. The screenwriter, Anita Doron, is a white, Hungarian Canadian woman. The producers are four white men, two of which, Andrew Rosen and Anthony Leo, are Canadians. The entire cast is South Asian Canadians, with three members being Afghan. While it is accurate and admirable to cast South Asians in a movie set in South Asia about South Asians, having virtually no inclusion of these voices behind the scenes seems to work against the film’s ability to accurately relay the complexities of Taliban-run Afghanistan.

The overwhelming aspect that reveals how inadequate and ill-equipped the filmmakers were at doing justice to this story is the terrible accents performed by most of the cast. Ada, a very practiced Afghan Canadian actor, doubled as the dialect coach for the film. Still, much of the cast sounded more like a non-native speaker’s idea of what an Arabic accent should be rather than a native Dari or Pashto speaker.  

The animation, however, salvages some respectability for the film, as it is lively and expertly uses bright reds, greens and blues when Parvana is telling the story of the Elephant King, and dull yellows, browns and blacks when she is in Kabul, showing the stark contrast between her dream life and reality. The animation was done in part in Canada’s Guru Studio, The Breadwinner being the company’s first feature film.

While The Breadwinner is beautifully animated with creative aspects, it is hard to get past the uneven plot, rushed ending, and weak details. It is even harder to relate to a character’s struggle when they are given little to no attributes, as sympathetic as their plights are.

All images are sourced from The Breadwinner trailer.

5 Canadian films to get you in the holiday spirit

By Nadia Brophy

It’s that time of year again - the one that gets you seated by a warm fireplace, curled up in a blanket with hot cocoa in hand, eyes glued to the TV screen. Ladies and gentleman, it’s Christmas time, and I’d like to gift you with a curated list of some Canadian holiday favourites to get you in the mood for celebrating this special season.

1.     Coming Home for Christmas (2017)

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Nothing quite beats the feeling of flicking on the Hallmark Channel at this time of year and immersing oneself in a feel-good Christmas romance. In doing so, you may come across Coming Home for Christmas, a romantic comedy following the complicated love life of Lizzie Richfield, a house manager for an estate in Virginia. The film focuses on Lizzie’s task in planning a Christmas Eve gala before the estate is sold. During this time, she finds herself caught up in the life of Robert Marley, a member of the family who owns the estate, as she begins to fall for him while also being pursued by Robert’s brother Kip. If you’re not a huge fan of keeping up with complicated love triangles, I urge you to still give the film a chance simply for its beautiful Canadian scenery. Despite being a dual American-Canadian production, all of the scenes in Coming Home for Christmas were filmed in picturesque British Columbia. Canadians from the west will recognize the towns and landscapes of Abbotsford and Langley, B.C., which bear striking resemblance to the intricate Christmas village sets that occupy our mantles during this season.

2.     The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017)

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Romance is all good and fun, but perhaps you’d prefer to indulge in a bit of Christmas history. How about a biopic drama about one of the season’s most beloved authors, Charles Dickens, portrayed by Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens in the Irish-Canadian production The Man Who Invented Christmas. This film chronicles the author’s true story of emergence from financial difficulty after he publishes three novels that fail to gain success in England’s literary scene. After gaining some new-found inspiration, Dickens sets his focus on writing the renowned story of Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, A Christmas Carol. What arguably makes the film most intriguing is watching Dickens’ characters come to life as he writes them into existence. The audience is treated to humorous interactions between the author and the infamous humbug played by Canada’s own Christopher Plummer. The film’s score was written by Canadian composer Mychael Danna and features a series of ambient orchestral works that emulate the feeling of waking up on a snowy Christmas morning.

3. The Nutcracker Prince (1990)

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I think we can all agree that there’s something very special about watching animated films during this season. Perhaps it’s the giddy child in us that grew up watching The Grinch and A Charlie Brown Christmas on repeat leading up to Christmas day. If you’re looking to feel that childlike excitement again, The Nutcracker Prince will surely fulfill that desire. Based on the classic story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A Hoffmann, the Canadian animated fantasy tells the tale of a young man - voiced by Canadian actor Kiefer Sutherland - who has been cursed to live his life as a nutcracker doll gifted to a girl named Clara on Christmas Eve. When Clara finds out that the curse can be broken if the Nutcracker defeats the sinister Mouse King responsible for the curse and wins the heart of a maiden, she embarks on a fantastical journey to help her special toy become his true self once more. Part of her journey leads her to be shrunken down and transported through the Land of Dolls where Christmas is brought to life on screen through images of elegant white swans, massive evergreen forests and a towering candy palace. If you haven’t already been convinced to add this enchanting film to your Christmas to-watch list, it is also accompanied by the famed music from The Nutcracker ballet, a classic seasonal production that follows the same story.

4. The Legend of Frosty the Snowman (2005)

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Yes, you did read that right - the ever-classic The Legend of Frosty the Snowman does indeed fall under the category of Canadiana Christmas. While the film was, in fact, a co-production between America and Canada, part of the animated tale was created by former Vancouver-based animation company Studio B Productions. The film also features the voice talents of Tara Strong, a Toronto native whose work includes Rugrats, Powerpuff Girls and Fairly Odd Parents. This classic animated fantasy is set in the fictional town of Evergreen, where children are forced to abide by a strict curfew and told not to participate in any fun activities. But that all begins to change when a black top hat escapes from a mysterious trunk that has been locked away in an attic for years and gives life to the most fun-filled presence of all - Frosty the Snowman. The magical character quickly wins over the hearts of the children in Evergreen as he encourages them to enjoy the winter season while it lasts. The plot begins to take a wicked turn when an antagonizing force leads Frosty to his demise and steals his hat in an effort to keep the town absent of fun. But that doesn’t stop the children of Evergreen from embarking on a quest to reclaim their snowy companion’s hat in an effort to restore the spirit of magic in their somber town.

5. Silent Night (2002)

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When looking for films to get us ready for this joyful holiday, we traditionally wouldn’t reach for a dark flick with intense subject matter. But for those of us who are looking for a little more depth and substance in our films - still keeping with the spirit of Christmas, of course - can turn to Silent Night, a fact-based story set on Christmas Eve during World War II. The film follows a German woman and her son who attempt to escape the dangers of war by fleeing to an isolated cabin in the Ardennes forest. It is not long before their cabin is invaded by groups of American soldiers and their German enemies. The interaction would have ended in a bloodbath if it weren’t for the mother who, after much struggle, is able to convince the German soldiers to set aside their contentions with the Americans and partake in a Christmas Eve dinner together. The soldiers eventually build unlikely friendships that supersede the tension that once existed between them. While I wouldn’t list Silent Night under the ‘feel-good’ category we’re all familiar with during the holidays, I would nevertheless label it a film that captures the spirit of Christmas in bringing people together to celebrate the season.

Student Creatives: The Filmmaking Journey

By: Nadia Brophy

Across all creative industries, there is a journey artists must take to establish themselves, meet their personal goals and create content they are proud of.

Three film studies students at Ryerson University gave CanCulture a behind-the-scenes look into how their creative journeys have been progressing thus far. Students Tyler Hall, Hayden Salter and Julia Batista share how they got inspired to pursue filmmaking, the projects they have created and what they intend to do next in their careers.

Tyler Hall

Photo: Submitted by Tyler Hall

Photo: Submitted by Tyler Hall

Tyler Hall’s filmmaking journey began with a fascination for storytelling, which first manifested during his childhood years. Throughout his youth, Hall’s mother ran a home daycare where himself and the children who attended would experiment with a dress-up box, creating several different kinds of characters and narratives using the variety of clothes. Hall would also play with action figures and make up stories about them, bringing the narratives to life as he played.

At age 10, Hall picked up his first video camera, opening himself up to a new world of storytelling. He would produce his first amateur film at age 16 which lead him to experiment with video editing. From that point on, Hall was inspired to continuing adding to his arsenal of filmmaking skills, including working with computer generated animation, which lead to his creation of 15 animated short films within a five year period.  

While Hall had always been a creative person himself, he attributes much of his inspiration to the people he grew up with. “I was surrounded by creatives growing up and was inspired by a lot of my friends and family to continue pursuing film,” said Hall.

He credits one of his close friends for introducing him to the world of editing, as throughout their friendship, he would observe his expertise in cutting video game footage together to create montages. He would also frequently attend the band practices and concerts of friends who were musicians, where he developed an acute understanding of rhythm and pacing that he believes “really paid off for film editing.”

Photos taken by Bang Siaotong, submitted by Tyler Hall

Photos taken by Bang Siaotong, submitted by Tyler Hall

In 2017, Hall was accepted to the film studies program at Ryerson University where he would put his skills to use in several creative and collaborative projects, including his psychological thriller Nosebleed. In the roles of cinematographer, producer and editor, Hall was assigned to collaborate with other student filmmakers on the task of adapting a script written by a student in the year above them. After reading the script for Nosebleed, which tells the dark story of a woman struggling with mental illness, Hall’s group was inspired to take an avant-garde approach to their storytelling.

“There are many ways to shoot a script,” said Hall. “You can take it Hollywood style narrative and lead a straightforward path for your viewer, or you can get experimental and become non-linear, bringing your viewers into a maze.”

To achieve this nonlinear experience for the audience, Hall’s group portrayed the story from the perspective of the mentally ill woman with the intention of showing “what it would be like to be in such an unstable, ever-changing mental state.” Adding to their experimentalism, the filmmakers chose to cast a man to play the main character’s mother.

“We wanted the film to feel surreal and dark with elements of symbolism and unanswered questions,” said Hall.

In the future, Hall hopes to continue creating psychological films with creative plot twists that play with the expectations of his audience.

“I hope to one day make a twist as good as The Sixth Sense,” Hall expressed.

Hayden Salter

Photo: Submitted by Hayden Salter

Photo: Submitted by Hayden Salter

First-year film studies student Hayden Salter was first introduced to the word of filmmaking through photography. In his early high school years, Salter created an Instagram account where he would showcase his wide range of photographic skills, from city and landscape photography to profiles and intricate nature shots. Salter recalls entering high school feeling shy and insecure in the new chapter of his life, so he turned to photography as a medium for self expression. He began to gain confidence in himself after his Instagram page gained popularity across the school where he received positive feedback from his peers.

Photo courtesy Hayden Salter via Instagram

Photo courtesy Hayden Salter via Instagram

“It felt like I was getting validation, because people would see what I was doing and they liked what I was doing,” said Salter.

While photography ultimately opened Salter up to the world of artistic expression, he believes film is the most effective medium for getting a message across to an audience, an aim he credits as being the reason he first got into filmmaking.

“Film grabs all the different components of sound, video, and you put it all together into this one image that you construct and you can share it with the world,” said Salter. “I just think that’s incredible. It captivates all the senses.”

Salter uses film to spread messages surrounding topics important to him including his latest short film Brink, which showcases the anxieties that come with entering into adulthood and how he overcame his fear in making life changing decisions for his future.

The idea for Brink came into fruition during Salter’s senior year in high school after he attended an assembly addressing university applications. He remembers going home that evening and translating his worries towards the prospect of university into a script, which he wrote as a conversation between two people representing two opposing thoughts in his head.


“One side of me was saying that you’re going to embark in this whole new world with all these opportunities and meet new people,” said Salter. “The other side of me was saying I don’t want to go into this new world. I have everything that I want right now and I’m sheltered and secure.”

The film concludes with the message that life will always change and move forward and despite how fearful one may be, they have to move along with it.

And Salter did just that, resulting in an acceptance to the film studies program at Ryerson University where he continues to add to his experience as a filmmaker. Currently, Salter creates action-packed promotional videos for sports games as well as music videos, but hopes to one day pursue a career in writing and directing narrative pieces.

“I want my films to mean something,” said Salter.

Julia Batista

Photo: Submitted by Julia Batista

Photo: Submitted by Julia Batista

Julia Batista’s journey into filmmaking began during her time in elementary school. During her grade 7 year, teachers began giving students the option to explore several creative mediums in order to complete their assignments. Always, and without hesitation, Batista would opt to create and edit a film. And it wasn’t just that Batista thought making a film was a more appealing option than writing a poem or designing a poster, for example, she also did it because she thoroughly enjoyed the process of editing a piece.

“Actually physically putting all the clips together, rearranging them, zooming in on a program to the seconds and milliseconds and fine cutting the footage, that’s what I really liked,” said Batista. “I thought, if I could do that everyday, I really wouldn’t mind it.”

Years later, when she arrived in the film studies program at Ryerson University, Batista was opened up to a world of opportunities in the filmmaking industry. For some time, she intended on pursuing cinematography as she found herself enjoying camera operating on set. However, Batista recalls having a recent epiphany that changed her career focus entirely. She now desires to pursue the career of a producer, which focuses heavily on organizing and planning a film, as she claims this role would be the perfect fit for her personality type.

“I’m extremely type A, I consider myself to be very organized and efficient,” said Batista. “I live my personal life this way, so it just makes so much sense to take on that role in the production of a film.”

Photo: Submitted by Julia Batista

Photo: Submitted by Julia Batista

While the role of a producer may be her chosen path, Batista has gained experience in several different filmmaking roles, including that of writer and director on her short film Expiration Date, a portrayal of the influence that toxic relationships have on one’s mental state. The film, created as a project for her first year production class, tasked Batista and her peers to work entirely on a 16mm Bolex film camera. Batista chose to work with double exposures to convey the moments when the film’s main character relives past memories of his relationship. She explained that since her team had to work with a Bolex, in order to create the double exposures, she had to physically rewind the film and precisely coordinate when to stop and expose it to the right amount of light. When this process is successful, as shown in Batista’s piece, it creates a ghostly overlapping image that portrays the past and present intersecting with one another.

“It took a lot of planning, slowly taking the steps, and patience with the actors,” said Batista of the double exposure process. “Once you roll the film, you can’t go back and look. But it turned out really well and I’m proud of it.”

In the future, Batista intends to work within the niche of documentary filmmaking. She hopes to produce films with a specific focus on the state of the environment, an issue she has advocated for and been passionate about for many years. She intends to take her documentaries international to explore the industry in countries like Australia, where documentary filmmaking is a widely popular medium.

“There’s just something about documentaries when it’s a really beautiful, cinematic piece,” said Batista. “At the end you realize it was all real. Real people, real stories. And yet it still feels like you were watching a movie. That’s what gets me about documentaries, I really love that kind of stuff.”

Meet the 6th Annual Buffer Festival Content Creators

By: Nina Jeffery

Joey Richter, Brian Rosenthal, and Corey Lubowich ( Team Starkid ).

Joey Richter, Brian Rosenthal, and Corey Lubowich (Team Starkid).

Team StarKid, a musical theatre ensemble, began in 2009 when a group of friends from the University of Michigan posted the Harry Potter parody musical, A Very Potter Musical on YouTube. The show became a viral hit and was the first college theatre production to make the Billboard Hot 100. With over 400,000 YouTube subscribers, they continue to delight a dedicated fan base with original productions. Team StarKid’s newest musical, The Guy Who Didn't Like Musicals premieres this fall at the Matrix Theatre Company.

Louis Cole ( FunForLouis )

Louis Cole (FunForLouis)

After gaining a following from food stunt videos on his channel FoodForLouis, Louis Cole has since been creating daily vlogs focused on lifestyle and travel. His channel recently passed 2 million subscribers and he is now known in the YouTube community as a top travel content creator. Cole received the Festival Honour Award at the Buffer Festival Awards Gala for his vlog Beyond Borders (Chapter 1).

Hannah Snow ( HannahSnow )

Hannah Snow (HannahSnow)

Hannah Snow is a British creator known for her lifestyle and DIY videos. At Buffer Festival, Snow premiered a clip from her new short, Sisters of House Black, with fellow creator Kelsey Ellison. 

Jon Cozart ( Paint )

Jon Cozart (Paint)

Jon Cozart is an American musician and comedian with 4.5 million subscribers on YouTube. He is well-known for his After Ever After acapella videos, where he parodies Disney characters through song. Cozart premiered the video Coming Out at Buffer Festival. He won the award for Excellence in Writing at the Awards Gala.

Michael Gregory ( schmoyoho )

Michael Gregory (schmoyoho)

Michael Gregory is the drummer and keyboardist of The Gregory Brothers. The band is renowned for their Songify the News series. At Buffer Festival, Gregory premiered his Girls Just Wanna Have Fun video.

Chantel Houston ( Ladylike )

Chantel Houston (Ladylike)

Chantel Houston is a senior producer and cast member for BuzzFeed. She is one of five creators for the YouTube channel LadyLike which focuses on lifestyle videos for women. At Buffer Festival, she premiered the film Whale Hello There.

Shannon Boodram ( Shan Boody )

Shannon Boodram (Shan Boody)

Shannon Boodram is well-known for being the internet’s relationship expert, making content that focuses on dating and sex education. Her YouTube channel encourages sex-positive conversations. She premiered her music video for Soaring, an empowerment video created with her partner Jared Brady.

Stevie Boebi ( Stevie )

Stevie Boebi (Stevie)

Stevie Boebi is a YouTube creator known for her queer-positive content where she gives life advice and speaks about sex and relationships. She premiered her documentary Go Fist Yourself which focuses on misconceptions about sex in the porn industry and in our everyday lives.

Elle Mills ( ElleOfTheMills )

Elle Mills (ElleOfTheMills)

Elle Mills is a Canadian YouTube creator who boasts 1.5 million subscribers on her channel ElleOfTheMills. She gained popularity for her Coming Out (Elle Mills Style) video that has over 3.9 million views. She creates vlogs and comedy videos, and premiered her newest video I Turned my Mom’s House Into a Frat at the comedy screening.

Sorelle Amore & Leon Hill ( SorelleAmore )

Sorelle Amore & Leon Hill (SorelleAmore)

Sorelle Amore is an Australian photographer and YouTuber known for her lifestyle and travel videos. Her popular series Advanced Selfies quickly popularized her channel. Her short film Where Are You? premiered at Buffer Festival. The featured creator poses with her partner Leon Hill.

Anna Akana ( AnnaAkana )

Anna Akana (AnnaAkana)

Anna Akana’s comedy and documentary work has garnered over 2 million YouTube subscribers. Recently, she produced and starred in the YouTube Red series Youth and Consequences. She premiered her short film dolor and received the Award for Excellence in Production at the festival Awards Gala.

Zach Ramelan ( ZachRamelan )

Zach Ramelan (ZachRamelan)

Zach Ramelan is a Canadian creator known for filmmaking and tech reviews. His short film Blinders premiered at Buffer Festival and highlighted the issue of homelessness in Canada. Ramelan won the Canadian Award of Excellence at the Awards Gala.

Spankie Valentine ( SpankieValentineTV )

Spankie Valentine (SpankieValentineTV)

Spankie Valentine is renowned for her career as a musical artist and her high-energy short films. Her film Lost in Darkness explores the dark side of the mind and won the award for Excellence in Cinematography at the Awards Gala.

Whitney Avalon ( WhitneyAvalon)

Whitney Avalon (WhitneyAvalon)

Whitney Avalon is an actress, comedian and musician who is known for her Princess Rap Battle series on YouTube. She premiered her film Don’t Be A, a comedic “kids” show better suited for adult audiences. Avalon won both the Excellence in Music, Sound, & Score and the Excellence in Comedy awards at the Awards Gala.

Stef Sanjati ( StefSanjati )

Stef Sanjati (StefSanjati)

Stef Sanjati is a Toronto based makeup artist, director and advocate. Her film Bad Words premiered at the festival’s LGBTQ+ screening and explored online culture and the negative effects that a single comment can hold.

22 Blockbusters You Never Knew Were Filmed in Canada

By Brent Smyth

While Canada may not have its own version of Hollywood, many blockbusters choose their northern neighbours to film key scenes and even entire movies! Whether to save money or the incredible scenery, here are the top 22 films to have been shot in Canada, and just wait for 16 and 21.

#1- Titanic (1997)

During the true sinking of the Titanic in 1912, Halifax was the closest port to the catastrophe, and the first to receive the distress signal. The ocean scenes in the film, which was in 1997 the most successful of all time- were shot near where the 1912 event occurred. In Halifax today over 100 victims of the sinking are buried near the port.

Twilight.jpg

#2- Twilight (2008)

Forks High School in the Twilight films in real life is the David Fraser Secondary School in Vancouver. Throughout the Lower Mainland and Vancouver play host to the setting in three of the four movies in the series.

(The Hollywood Reporter)

(The Hollywood Reporter)

#3- Good Will Hunting (1997)

Shot in only five months, this movie was created in Boston and Toronto, and all the movie’s famous classroom scenes were filmed at the University of Toronto and Central Technical School, not Harvard and MIT.

interstellar.jpg

#4- Interstellar (2014)

While a solid ¾ of the film is in space, the initial farm scenes and opening locations are all found in Alberta. Including Calgary, Canmore, Okotoks, Fort Macleod and outlying areas.

(MTV UK)

(MTV UK)

#5- Mean Girls (2004)

Set in Illinois, a majority of the movie was shot in Toronto at Malvern Collegiate Institute and Etobicoke Collegiate Institute, and the famous Jungle mall scene was shot in Etobicoke, in Sherway Gardens.

Inception.jpg

#6- Inception (2010)

Truly a movie of international locations, inception takes place in England, Morocco and France. However the Fortress Mountain Ski Resort in the Canadian Rockies at Kananaskis, just outside of Calgary served as the snowy mountain fortress sequence, the deepest dream level.

(Rolling Stone)

(Rolling Stone)

#7- Billy Madison (1995)

Sandler’s character in the film progresses through all the grades of school, and the movie itself progresses through quite a few locations in Toronto, including Northern Secondary School, John Ross Robertson Junior Public School, the Parkwood Estate in Oshawa and several other locations around Toronto, Oshawa and Stouffville.

#8- Blades of Glory (2007)

Putting the city’s Olympic history to use, the film used the Montreal Olympic Stadium for the outdoor skating scenes, and the movie’s signature chase scene was shot in Montreal’s Olympic Village.

(El Parana)

(El Parana)

#9- IT (2017)

The remake of Stephen King’s clown horror finds its home in Port Hope, Ont. The local Queen Street Tattoo parlour was transformed to Derry Ice Cream for the film.

(Pop Geeks)

(Pop Geeks)

#10- The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Seemingly filmed in New York City, for four nights in downtown Toronto Yonge Street was closed for filming. And because of how accommodating Toronto’s mayor at the time had been, the Eaton Centre and the University of Toronto also play a role in the film.

(Mental Floss)

(Mental Floss)

#11- Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Instead of flying to France for the European scenes, film crews travelled to Montreal and Quebec City to avoid breaking the bank while still getting the european feel.

(Nerdist)

(Nerdist)

#12- The Neverending Story (1984)

Although most of the movie was shot in Germany, the alleyway Bastian finds himself chased into is Vancouver’s Blood Alley in Gastown. And at the very end of the movie, Flying Luck Dragon Falcor does a Vancouver fly-by.

(Time Out)

(Time Out)

#13- Capote (2005)

It may have been set in the flatlands of Kansas, but Capote was instead shot in Winnipeg and Selkirk, Manitoba. Some notable sites to see are the Manitoba Legislative Building, Gilbart’s Funeral Home and Stony Mountain Institution, which plays a prominent role in the film.

(Mental Floss)

(Mental Floss)

#14- My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

Starring Canadian actress Nia Vardalos, the film may have been set in Chicago, but the filming didn't draw Vardalos far from home. A number of downtown spots including Toronto’s Greek Town played home to the film.

(The Telegraph)

(The Telegraph)

#15- Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Although set in Wyoming, it is clear the Canadian Rockies are the breathtaking backdrop seen in the film. Sites where the filming actually took place include Calgary, Elbow Falls, Cowley and Fort Macleod.

(The Ace Black Blog)

(The Ace Black Blog)

#16- Chicago (2002)

Iconic Toronto locales such as Osgoode Hall, Queen’s Park, Elgin Theatre and Union Station all had roles in the film, and Toronto has frequently played the part of Chicago in blockbuster films, and this musical was no exception.

(Addicted2Success)

(Addicted2Success)

#17- Cool Runnings (1993)

Loosely based on the 1988 Jamaican national bobsled team that competed in the Olympics in Calgary, this movie stays true to its real-life counterparts and had a majority of its filmign done in Calgary.

(Hollywood Reporter)

(Hollywood Reporter)

#18- Juno (2007)

Although set in Minnesota, Juno was actually shot in various locations throughout Vancouver, Burnaby, Coquitlam and White Rock, and this American-Canadian comedy has gone down as a Canadian classic.

(Hollywood Reporter)

(Hollywood Reporter)

#19- The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

The highest-grossing Hollywood movie ever to be filmed in Canada, this American action film finds its locations in Toronto and Montreal, as well as globally in places such as Tokyo, Hawaii and Scotland.

(The Telegraph)

(The Telegraph)

#20- Total Recall (2012)

Using the aid of CGI, Guelph, Ont. was converted into a post-apocalyptic London, and Toronto location such as the  University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus and Roy Thomson Hall stood in for stations within the planet’s internal transit system, The Fall. Total Recall remains one of the largest budget films shot in Toronto.

(PLay

(PLay

#21- American Psycho (2000)

Considering the word ‘American’ is in the title, don't be alarmed when it is revealed Bateman’s office is in the TD Centre, serving as a substitute for the Seagram Building in New York City, which were both designed by architect Mies Van der Rohe. Additionally, The Phoenix Concert Theatre, The King Edward Hotel’s Consort Bar, The Senator diner and several more of the city’s now-defunct restaurants and clubs played host to Patrick Bateman and his friends on film.

(The Telegraph)

(The Telegraph)

#22- The Revenant (2015)

Shot in Alberta, the winter it was being filmed proved difficult for the crew, as the snow started to melt before production was complete. This forced the final fight scene in the film to be shot in Argentina. Also due to the odd winter, Burnaby, B.C. was used for a few scenes.

This piece was edited by Isabelle Kirkwood

Notable Canadian Oscar Winners throughout History

Oscar-season is officially over and this year brought Canada's fair share of homegrown nominees. Let's take a look back through the history of the Academy Awards to look at Canada's most notable winners. 

1. Mary Pickford

pickford.jpeg

Mary Pickford of Toronto won the second Best Actress award in Oscar history (however the first award for an actress in a talkie) for the 1929 film, Coquette. Although Pickford retired shortly after from acting in 1933, she would receive an honorary Oscar at the 1976 Academy Awards for her contributions to the world of film.

2. James Cameron

cameron.jpg

For producing the (then) highest-grossing film of all-time, James Cameron won Best Picture, Best Director and Film Editing in 1997 for Titanic, which earned a record-breaking total of 11 Oscars.  

3. Norma Shearer and Marie Dressler

Complex.com

Complex.com

Continuing the trend of Canadian actresses dominating the early Oscars ceremonies, French-Canadian actress Norma Shearer won the Best Actress award at the third Academy Awards for the 1930 film, The Divorcee. Canada’s Marie Dressler then won the Best Actress award for her performance in the 1930 film, Min and Bill at the fourth Academy Awards.

4. Harold Russell

Complex.com

Complex.com

Despite being a disabled World War II veteran, Nova Scotia-born Harold Russell featured in the 1946 film The Best Years of Our Lives, for which he claimed the Best Supporting Actor award. Russell lost both of his hands in combat, and received a second Oscar that night for ''bringing aid and comfort to disabled veterans through the medium of motion pictures.''

5. Norman Jewison

Complex.com

Complex.com

Through the years, Jewsion’s films have won 12 Oscars- including Best Picture in 1967 for In the Heat of the Night, and have been nominated for a total of 45. He himself has been honoured as a seven-time Oscar nominee, and in 1999 received the prestigious Irving Thalberg Award at the Oscars.

6. Christopher Plummer

Complex.com

Complex.com

Known for his iconic role as Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, Plummer won his first Oscar in 2012. He received a standing ovation when he won Best Supporting Actor award in the independent film, Beginners. The then 82-year-old was the oldest person to have ever won an Oscar.

7. Walter Huston

Complex.com

Complex.com

Playing a wounded ship’s captain in Humphrey Bogart’s 1948 film, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Toronto-born Walter Huston won the Best Supporting Actor award. His son John won Best Director that year for the same film.

8. Anna Paquin

Complex.com

Complex.com

Making her debut performance at just age 11, Winnipeg-born actress Anna Paquin picked up her Best Supporting Actress award for the 1993 film The Piano. That night Paquin became the second-youngest Oscar winner of all time.

9. Denys Arcand

Complex.com

Complex.com

Arcand is the only French-Canadian director in history to take home an Oscar, along with being nominated three times, all in the Best Foreign Film category. He was nominated for The Decline Of The American Empire in 1986, Jesus Of Montreal in 1989 and won in 2004 for The Barbarian Invasions

10. Paul Haggis

Complex.com

Complex.com

Haggis became the first screenwriter to write two Best Film Oscars back-to-back- Million Dollar Baby and Crash in 2004 and 2005- the latter of which he directed. For Crash, he won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.