We like when Canada is the dominant country in a film, but we should also appreciate those moments when Canada is the icing on a cupcake and not the cupcake on a non-Canadian film.
Let's look at a pair of recent films currently in the film festival circuit that have a spotlight on Canada.
Tulipani: Love, Honour and a Bicycle (Tulipani: Liefde, Eer en een Fiets)
This film is from the Netherlands, set mostly in Italy, and also have a Lithuanian crew. Yet the film starts out in Montréal with Canadian actress Ksenia Solo, whom you might know from Lost Girl and Season 3 of Orphan Black (the Shay in Coshay with Cosima).
Solo's character Anna returns to Italy to spread the ashes of her mother and discovers her background and learns about her father. The adult version of Anna is not in most of the film as the emphasis is on Italy.
Peter van Wijk, who wrote the original screenplay, is Canadian and lives in Montréal.
Solo speaks Italian in the film. Mike van Diem, who directed the film, said Solo had learned Italian for the part. She also recently did In Search of Fellini, so she got some mileage with her Italian.
As if this story wasn't European enough, Solo was born in Latvia and emigrated to Canada as a small child.
Montréal does have a significant Italian population. The Montréal scenes are shot in Montréal.
Lost in Paris (Paris pieds nus)
This film is set in Paris but Canada is connected to the primary female character. Fiona is invited to come to Paris to help her Aunt Martha. She always wanted to go to Paris.
The film is a French farce so a lot of elements are over the top. Canada is portrayed as a small village in a tundra where it is always snowing and a very strong wind blows whenever the door is open.
Fiona comes to Paris with a huge red backpack with a Canadian flag. She meets a Canadian Mountie who is in a training session in Paris. Fiona keeps trying to speak French to him but he explains that he does know English.
Fiona Gordon wrote, starred, and directed the film. Gordon is Australia-born but grew up in Canada.
There is little reason to think the Canada scenes were shot in Canada. The version of Canada is so exaggerated that there would be no need to be in Canada.
The use of Canada in both films was inspired by actual Canadians being in the creative process. Both films needed a place of somewhere else and Canada proved helpful.
Their Canadian identity isn't a significant factor in either film. Tulipani presents a more realistic view of Canada while Lost in Paris offers a sillier, stereotypical version.
Neither film is Canadian by traditional definitions, though Gordon is a director who is Canadian.
No recent film used Canada as poorly as The Proposal even with Canadian Ryan Reynolds in the movie. I'll take the silliness in Lost in Paris over apathy and laziness in The Proposal.
We are more likely to trust non-American films on the use of Canada over American films simply because Americans don't really know too much about Canada. Michael Moore used Canada well in Canadian Bacon. Scott Pilgrim Saves the World represented its Canada identity in fine fashion. Kevin Smith still confuses us over his use of Canada in his True North trilogy films: Tusk, Yoga Hosers, and the still in production Moose Jaws.
Do you have a favourite non-Canadian film where you like how the film portrays Canada? Let us know in the comments section.
photos credit: Tulipani: Love, Honour and a Bicycle; Lost in Paris