Last week I was schooled by award winning Canadian director Jerry Ciccoritti.
If you teach film / media or proclaim yourself a cinephile then Jerry Ciccoritti is a name you should know and recognize. If not his name, you surely recognize his diverse and prolific body of work His television directing credits include Networth, Trudeau, Lives of the Saints, Shania Twain: A Life In Eight Albums, Dragon Boys and most recently the hilariously sharp Schitt’s Creek with Eugine Levy. His feature films, influenced by his deep appreciation and knowledge of cinematic history include Blood and The Resurrection of Tony Gitone. In all, his voice within the Canadian film and television space matters
Over a lunch last week where we chatted about television , cinema and education, one thing was pronounced; he knows what the hell he is talking about when it comes to history, criticism and unsurprisingly production. From topics ranging from the American Golden Age of Television to challenges with the Canadian narrative, I sat over lunch and and received a master class in both cultural and cinematic studies. Importantly, one note struck a specific cord and reinforced much of my classroom teaching. Humbly is was a quiet vindication of sorts; having messaging aligned with such a creative force as Ciccortti.
The Canadian narrative struggle, why homegrown productions tend to be challenged when it comes to audience, is because Canada unlike the US lacks a creation myth. “Blood on the streets” as Jerry noted was not spilled in Canada. As such, key mythic images and values have not been constructed and ingrained within our shared cultural psyche. Underlying a canvas painted with multiculturalism, exists a broken thread that does not binds us. Unlike America where mythic images of the west and notations of patriotism are embedded within a shared thinking, the Canadian narrative is not uniformed or even fortified.
This is why a Canadian film conversation matters. A myth of sorts needs to be discovered in either form or style. As such, organizations like Reel Canada which offers fantastically rich educational resources or the NFB with their Campus for education are paramount. They matter so the conversation can be had. Although we do not have a shared myth, we as Canadians do have shared stories. The stories, define who we are as individuals and help build and navigate conversations around identity, community, and nationality.
From the education lens, it all comes down to intentionality. If you teach media , the arts or humanities, how intentional are you in providing for a Canadian discourse? It should be of urgency to dialogue about who were are and are not. I’ve been prophesying this in my own right for sometime. From 2002 – 2006, I curated both a Canadian film society and short/feature film festival in the Niagara region. A challenge in a region known for tourism and cultural assimilation. The goal with these grass root initiatives was to challenge a shared sense of the mainstream. Films like Goin Down The Road, Mon Oncle Antoine and Ararat tell real Canadian stories ; not blockbusters with international stars but intimate portraits of experiences that are uniquely Canadian.
In the end this is a deep conversation; layered, complex and contentious. In the era of Batman v. Superman and all things Fast and Furious, little Canadian films do matter. I suppose, we all just need to pay a little more attention.
Thanks to Jerry for the master class.