Canadian Culture Through Film

By Hannah Mata (Game Art ’21)

Immerse Yourself in Canadian Culture by Adam Dionne (Game Art ’21), final project for Canadian Culture Through Film Class.

One of the most difficult tasks for me to complete before entering Montreal was picking out my classes, or more specifically, my COR classes. Not knowing who the professors are or what the classes entail makes decisions harder, and I remember simply picking classes that sounded most interesting from the title. Canadian Film was one of these classes that ended up being one I thoroughly enjoy, but for those nervous about a shot in the dark when it comes to a semester long class, here’s what goes on.

As you probably guessed, most of the class is spent watching a few short Canadian films and then a longer one. All of them were made in Canada by Canadian directors, and have a very unique style that differs from high budget, Hollywood films. We first talk about what we thought of the films immediately after watching them, while homework is a simple discussion post every week where you go more in depth with your ideas, such as how they made you think or feel, and more. Here you can have discussions with classmates who may have differing opinions on what they saw or see the films from another point of view. The professor, Mark Slutsky, also gives a bunch of topic questions on the films each week to help aid your thinking. It’s not an overwhelming amount of work, while also allowing you to think critically about what you saw.

Starting off the class, we watched short films such as “Dots” that was created by director Norman McLaren drawing directly upon the film with pen and ink, which created sounds depending on the visuals. “A Chairy Tale” was a film about a man trying to sit on a chair to read his book, but the chair simply would not let him.

As the semester went on, the films we watched grew increasingly longer and caused me to think more critically about what I was watching. “Last Night”, likely my favorite movie of the semester so far, is the complete opposite of the very Americanized version of, “What would we do if the world was going to end?” In “Armageddon”, famous actors team up to fight the impending doom and stop the world from ending. “Last Night”, however, focuses on what people would do if it was their last night on Earth. A completely different view for sure, but it was an incredibly interesting watch and allowed me to ponder what I would do if I was in their place.

This class also covers first world people such as the Inuit, specifically in the film “Angry Inuk”. Inuit have been hunting seals for years, and it’s completely eco-friendly and feeds their entire community. No part of the seal goes to waste. Their skins are used to make clothes and sell for gas money to continue going out to and hunt seals. Putting a ban on selling seal skins is extremely detrimental for their entire lives, and even if laws state that the Inuit would be protected, it’s of no use when no one will buy the skins. I won’t spoil the whole thing, but watching this film put seal hunting into their perspective and was incredibly interesting and sad to watch.

In a brief interview with film professor Mark Slutsky, I was given an overview of the class in his point of view that will hopefully make your decision on which COR classes to take easier!

“Canadian Culture Through Film is an introduction to Canada and its people through its unique, homegrown cinema. Though not particularly well-known in the U.S., Canadian films nonetheless have a unique character and a subtle but pervasive influence on Hollywood. In fact, many big-name Hollywood directors, from Ivan Reitman to Denis Villeneuve, came out of Canada and began their careers here. The class looks at the contributions Canada has made to world cinema in fields like animation and documentary, its strong tradition of indigenous cinema, the wild and weird days of the 1970s Canuxploitation era and the filmmakers like David Cronenberg it gave birth to, Quebec’s globally recognized culture and film industry, and lots of stuff in between. In between weekly screenings and discussions, we also dip our toes in Montreal’s movie scene, attending film festivals, visiting indie cinemas, and welcoming local filmmakers. Students are encouraged to get creative with their final projects and have created short films, podcasts, VR experiences and even games, which they present to the rest of the class.”

Along with the overview, I asked who he believed would enjoy this class. He answered, “Anyone with even a passing interest in film and/or visual storytelling would enjoy this class. Even if your background is more in video gaming and emerging media than movies proper, you should find something engaging here to contribute to your practice.”