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(Canadian cultural policy).

Sheila Copps, Canadian Heritage minister, announced the Liberal's new and improved feature-film policy at last year's Vancouver International Film Festival. It combined more cash for the production of feature films, with a commitment to preserve Canada's cinematic heritage and a concerted effort to improve the percentage of screentime now occupied by Canadian features in their own market from its present miserable two per cent to five. The industry, of course, welcomed the minister's announcement with a sigh of relief. It's only taken the Liberals two and a half years to make good on a promise made back in the spring of 1998. What is unexpected is that Telefilm Canada is the main beneficiary of the minister's largess and all the press speculation that a new funding source would be created -- some sort of Telefilm/NFB/CBC coalition of resources -- proved unfounded. Perhaps the recent unwieldy and unruly permutations that accompanied the birth of the Canadian Television Fund guided the minister and her staff toward the proven worth of Telefilm Canada, now in its 33rd year of dispensing funds to Canada's (still) fledgling feature-film industry.

Thirty-three years, and how far have we come? Both major Canadian exhibition chains are still in foreign hands(*) and the percentage of Canadian screentime remains minuscule. There are undeniably many more and much better Canadian features being made today than there were 33 years ago, but you wouldn't know by the lack of coverage in the mainstream press, except at film-festival time. And as long as Canadian producers have only limited access to theatre screens in their own market, the general public will remain barely aware that such a thing as Canadian cinema exists. Compounding this seemly unsolvable problem is the annual turkey shoot called the Genies. This is not criticism of the Academy of Canadian Film and Television, which organizes the event and does its level best under difficult circumstances, made even more so this year by its own jury members. There were two genuine crowd-pleasers in 2000 -- well actually there were three if you count Sunshine which was released in December of 1999 but did most of its business in 2000 -- something very rare in English-speaking Canadian cinema. The Art of War and New Waterford Girl both drew healthy audiences, particularly The Art of War, which is the single most successful Canadian film at the North American box office since Porky's. Both were nominated in several categories and both came away with nothing. Maelstrom, a deserving but little-seen film, even by those sitting in the audience the night of the Genies, won all the major awards, and once again the Academy drew easy fire from those who complain loudest that the Genies are about films nobody sees, celebrated on a show nobody watches. Sometimes it's hard to disagree.

In the last issue, in this space, I outlined some of the changes that will occur at Take One in 2001, our 10th-anniversary year. This issue is the last of volume nine and the last to be published on a quarterly cycle. Staring with volume 10, Take One will be publishing five times annually in order to better cover the ever-growing Canadian film scene and provide more timely reviews and festival wraps. From now on, Take One will appear in March, May, July, September and December. On a more personal note, Marc Glassman, our good friend and Take One's long-time contributing editor, has moved on after nine long years. I am pleased to say that Marc has blossomed as a writer (he recently won a Toronto Arts Award, in part, for his many articles published in Take One) and he is now in great demand as a radio commentator, programmer with the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival and a regular contributor to Montage, the Directors Guild of Canada's new quarterly publication given away free to its members. Marc is also active in the Toronto Film Critics Association, an organization I founded in 1997, and we are currently working together on a book about the Toronto new wave for the University of Toronto Press. Marc and I go way back, and I want to thank him for all his articles and reviews for Take One over these past nine years, sincerely wish him well in his future endeavours, and trust that, on occasion, he will return to our pages with his usual informed insight into Canadian film.

(*) PS: Days after this piece was written, Gerald Schwartz, president of the Toronto-based Onex Corp., along with two U.S. investment companies, bought the bankrupt Loews Cineplex Entertainment Inc., parent company of Cineplex Odeon. However, with Cineplex finally back in Canadian hands, there is no guarantee that it will exhibit more Canadian films.
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Author:Wise, W.P.
Publication:Take One
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Mar 22, 2001
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