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From sea to sea (Canadian films).

The West Coast

The festival season is upon us again and things at the Vancouver International Film Festival office are heating up. The Canadian Images sidebar, one of the festival's main sections, is under new management: filmmaker, programmer, teacher and occasional Take One contributor Ken Anderlini has taken over the reins for the 1998 edition. A chat with him reveals that there have been over 370 submissions this year, including more than 70 fiction and documentary features. Highlights include Nettie Wild's documentary A Place Called Chiapas, Bruce Sweeney's Dirty, Annie Frazier Henry's Singing Our Stories and Loretta Todd's Today is a Good Day-Remembering Chief Dan George. With regard to the latter, the festival and the family of George are discussing the possibility of setting up a Chief Dan George Award to recognize "humanitarian entertainment," an award open to all features in the festival. The wealth of work coming from First Nations filmmakers has prompted something special for 1998. Anderlini says, "This year Canadian Images will include a focus on work by First Nations directors, offering insight into the growth of an indigenous film industry. The program offers evidence of a strong aboriginal voice emerging in Canadian cinema and illustrates the way traditional film forms are evolving as First Nations directors tell their own stories".... In case you missed it, Premier Glen Clark arrived on the set of Viper in the show's futuristic sports car to announce that the B.C. government will bring in tax incentives worth at least $20 million to foreign producers, in an attempt to keep the movie and television business going full-tilt in the province. The move brings British Columbia in line with Ontario, which announced similar incentives last year, and has local crews breathing a little easier, especially as some studies suggested the province stood to lose up to $250 million in business if changes were not made.... Yes, that was Tommy Lee Jones you saw on Robson Street, and yes, that was Ashley Judd at that fine eatery. Both are in town shooting Bruce Beresford's Double Jeopardy for Paramount, a film that shows promise. I'm not sure the same can be said for the just-wrapped National Lampoon's Golf Punks, starring noted "golfer" Tom Arnold.

The Prairies

Pathological optimism has taken hold in Alberta. It's paid off for pioneers in farming and oil, so why not filmmakers? After countless meetings, presentations and promises, Alberta government officials felt that a tax rebate for the film industry just didn't fit with their philosophy. The buzz suggests that the legislators are eager to solve the perceived Alberta "disadvantage," they just don't like tax rebates. Producers, bureaucrats and politicians are urgently researching some form of special fund that producers can access, just as long as it doesn't look too much like the old AMPDC.... Still, the Prairies are alive with the buzz of cameras capturing motion pictures. CBC cancelled its long-running series North of 60, but Alberta Filmworks's producers Doug MacLeod and Tom Dent-Cox just wrapped four weeks of shooting In the Blue Ground, a North of 60 television movie. A psychological thriller, the MOW builds on the show's success as a police drama set in the exotic North. Also in Calgary, Honey I Shrunk the Kids is shooting its second season for Disney TV.... In Edmonton, producers Josh Miller and Margaret Mardirossian recently wrapped five more episodes of Mentors, a show about super-smart kids who have discovered the technology to bringing some pretty cool heroes to life. The pilot was about Einstein, but Alexander Graham Bell, Joan of Arc, Napoleon Bonaparte, Oscar Wilde and Lewis Carroll are also brought back to life. Calgary feature-film producer Bruce Harvey and actor/director Michael Ironside are shooting two thrillers in Edmonton this season. Blood Money is up next, now that Question of Privilege has been put to bed.... In Saskatchewan, Gil Cardinal's Big Bear is in the can after many weeks of shooting. The CBC miniseries has garnered great attention across the country, both for its subject matter and the team who persisted on the project for years--Cardinal, co-writer Rudy Weibe and actor Gordon Tootoosis, who plays the legendary Big Bear. Newly appointed Saskatchewan film commissioner Don Archbold says his province is attracting quite a bit of attention. A second CBC miniseries is slated to shoot there this summer, the $11-million Revenge of the Land, based on a novel by Saskatchewan writer Maggie Siggins. Archbold, a former Alberta producer, says his first few weeks on the job are keeping him strapped to the phone fielding inquiries about fall movies.


Winnipeg filmmakers have been racking up prizes at Canadian festivals. Noam Gonick's subversive take on the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike, 1919, won Best Canadian Short at last June's Toronto Worldwide Short Film Festival. Gary Yates's The Big Pickle won a special jury prize at the Yorkton Festival, while his half-hour TV drama, Harlan and Fiona, won Best Drama Under 30 Minutes. Lea Pool's beautifully shot documentary Gabrielle Roy, a coproduction between Winnipeg's Buffalo Gal Pictures and Les Productions de L'Impatiente of Montreal, won the Best History and Biography Program at the Banff Television Festival.... This past summer, in scorching July heat, Kiefer Sutherland shot Woman Wanted in Winnipeg. Scripted by Joanna Glass, the film features Sutherland, Holly Hunter, Michael Moriarity and Sutherland's mother, Shirley Douglas, in a story about a man and his son who fall for the same woman who responds to a help-wanted newspaper ad. Word on the street is that Sutherland was exceptionally nice to the film crew.... Getting back to his B movie roots, Crime Wave director John Paizs has been in Toronto shooting Top of the Food Chain co-written by Phil Bedard and Larry Lalonde.... A record number of people have been taking basic filmmaking workshops at the Winnipeg Film Group and learning crew-training skills through the MMPIA training program. The Winnipeg Film Group saw an almost 30 per cent increase in membership this past year and increased funding from the Canada Council for distribution.... Guitar Visionary: The Lenny Breau Story is finally underway. Lenny Breau's life story--he was acknowledged as one of the premier jazz guitarists of his generation who died tragically from a heroin overdose--makes an incredible subject for a documentary with all the elements of Bruce Weber's Let's Get Lost. The director is John Martin, a man with a rich background in CBC television current affairs programming and music production at MuchMusic.... Frustrated by a lack of financial support to complete his last independent project tentatively titled The Funeral, John Kozak (Hell Bent, Dory) is considering moving to Vancouver or the United States. It would be a loss to independent filmmaking in Winnipeg if Kozak packed his bags.... The National Screen Institute has finally opened up its Winnipeg office which will be used as a development centre for new programs. The Winnipeg version of Local Heroes will happen in early March, culminating in the Blizzard awards.


One of the most expensive Canadian films ever made is to open this year's Toronto International Film Festival. The Red Violin, directed by Francois Girard and based on a screenplay by Girard and Don McKellar, is budgeted at $15 million and has a cast of thousands. "It's an epic," says producer Niv Fichman. "We needed to set the film in a prominent place in the festival and we hoped for opening night." A Canada/Italy coproduction, The Red Violin--which features an international cast that includes Samuel L. Jackson, Colm Feore, Sylvia Chang and Greta Scacchi--is set over four centuries and five countries and chronicles the journey of a violin that is mysteriously possessed by an immortal soul and passed from one owner to the next. "It's a commercial film, very romantic and uplifting," says Fichman. "It leaves a positive feeling." Also featured at this year's festival are Don McKellar's directorial debut, Last Night, starring McKellar and Sandra Oh as individuals contemplating how to spend their last night on Earth; Denis Villeneuve's Un 32 aout sur terre, about a woman's (Pascale Bussieres) reawakening following a car accident; and Jerry Ciccoritti's urban love story set in Toronto's Little Italy, Boy Meets Girl, with Kate Nelligan and Joe Mantegna.... The newly formed Alliance Atlantis is venturing out into international coproductions with The Taste of Sunshine, currently shooting in Budapest. Starring Ralph Fiennes, and written and directed by Istvan Szabo, the film details three generations of a family's economic rise and fall. "I have been hoping to work with Istvan Szabo since the beginning of my producing career, and with Ralph Fiennes since I first saw him on screen," says Robert Lantos who's coproducing with Andras Hamori. "I am particularly delighted that we have all embarked together on a project that is close to my heart".... Features that are wrapping up shoots in Toronto include: Robert Greenwald's Abbie! starring Vincent D'Onofrio and Janeane Garofalo; Troy Duffy's The Boonduck Saints starring Willem Dafoe and Billy Connelly; and Charles Winkler's Marciano, starring Jon Favreau and George C. Scott.


It's a great time of the year for Quebec film premieres. As we heard that Francois Girard's much anticipated The Red Violin was going to play both the Venice and Toronto film festivals, it was also confirmed that Robert Lepage's latest, No, was chosen to open the Montreal World Film Festival. Based on one of the many stories from his acclaimed epic play The Seven Streams of the River Ota, No is a low-budget comedy set in Japan and Quebec during the 1970 October Crisis. Who said we couldn't have fun with some of our biggest historical traumas? The film, starring Anne-Marie Cadieux, will be released in late September.... Set to be released this fall is Manon Briand's 2 secondes, produced by Roger Frappier and selected in competition at the World Film Festival. The story of a professional cyclist, played by Charlotte Laurier, forced to abandon the game, the film was shot in Quebec and California, and also features Dino Tavarone, who became an overnight sensation three years ago with his star turn in the acclaimed Mafia TV series Omerta.... Set for an October release, Cinemaginaire's C't'a ton tour, Laura Cadieux marks Denise Filiatrault's film debut. A star of Quebec television, cinema (Les Plouffe) and theatre (Les Belles soeurs) for over four decades, Filiatrault is also one of Quebec's most prolific and respected theatre directors. She finally makes the jump into film with this comedy of manners based on Michel Tremblay's famous novel of the same name, which she adapted herself. C't'a ton tour, Laura Cadieux stars singer/actress Ginette Reno, whose last appearance on the big screen was as the memorable mother figure in Jean-Claude Lauzon's Leolo.... On another front, while the release date for Michel Brault's film about the 1837 Rebellion, Le Prisionnier, has been pushed back to winter 1999, Quebec's other patriot-in-waiting, Pierre Falardeau, is back behind the cameras. Joining him for the first time in almost a decade, Falardeau's longtime friend and collaborator Julien Poulin straps his sequins on once again to star in Miracle a Memphis, a brand new Elvis Gratton adventure. Elvis impersonator extraordinaire, Gratton is Falardeau and Poulin's most beloved creation and quite possibly Quebec cinema's greatest and most biting satirical character. Distributed by Lions Gate Films and produced by ACPAV's Bernadette Payeur, Miracle a Memphis is being shot in and around Montreal until the end of October.

The East Coast

Festival season seems to have fallen out of sync with much of East Coast production this year, leaving several major projects such as Thom Fitzgerald's docudrama, Beefcake, and Clement Virgo's Picture Plant-produced One Heart Broken into Song set to premiere in deep winter. Meanwhile, newer projects like Rick Mercer's acerbic series, The Industry (a.k.a. Casting Couch), a six-part Newsroom-like satire of the film industry, won't touch down until next March or April.... Younger filmmakers based in or around Halifax have considerable leverage this year, with Mike Clattenburg, Stephen J.P. Comeau and Scott Simpson all weighing in with new short dramas--One Last Shot, Mercy and December 1917, respectively.... Outside the region's biggest city, however, activity continues to build in New Brunswick and Newfoundland. Bathurst-based writer/director Tony Larder has just wrapped a coming-of-age half-hour drama entitled The Dance, filmed just outside of Fredericton. It's only one in a six-part series destined for broadcast on the CBC that highlights New Brunswick writers, directors and producers.... Meanwhile, in Newfoundland, John Doyle's Extraordinary Visitor is clearly the strongest indigenous dramatic feature since Mike Jones's legendary The Adventure of Faustus Bidgood, which was released in 1986 after many years of delay. Mike's brother and sister, Andy (formerly of CODCO) and Cathy (of This Hour Has 22 Minutes fame), star in another Newfoundland feature, Sharon Cavanaugh's Samuel Beckett-meets-Ingmar Bergman two-hander The Pasta King of the Caribbean, which is shot almost entirely in one room. Full of oblique exchanges that disguise a murder/mystery structure, The Pasta King of the Caribbean is the region's most intriguing feature of 1998.... Series work continues to provide most of the region's television activity. Giles Walker directed Mary Walsh and Andy Jones in episodes of the kitchen-sink/hockey-rink St. John's comedy Dooley Gardens, while Halifax's Salter Street is steaming ahead with 20 additional hours of its quirky sci-fi German coproduction, Lexx: The Dark Zone Stories, and launching a new comedic gardening show, Mrs. Greenthumbs. Salter Street recently swallowed Nova Scotia's fifth biggest production company, Charles Bishop Productions, and adds CBP's series FoodEssence to its growing library.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Canadian Independent Film & Television Publishing Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Jack Vermee, and others
Publication:Take One
Date:Sep 22, 1998
Previous Article:Sex in Cannes.
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