"What does it really mean to be Canadian?"
Comedy writer Rob Cohen ("The Simpsons" and "Saturday Night Live") is a Canadian who works in the United States. Cohen decided to go back to Canada to find out answers to that question in the new documentary "Being Canadian."
The documentary features a significant number of Canadians who primarily live and work in the United States. The partial list … .
Cobie Smulders, Michael J. Fox, Nathan Fillion, Will Arnett, Seth Rogen, Mike Myers, Kim Cattrall, William Shatner, Dan Aykroyd, Martin Short, Catherine O'Hara, Jason Priestley, Dave Foley, Eugene Levy, Alex Trebek, Rush, Alan Thicke, Alanis Morissette, Howie Mandel, Caroline Rhea, Paul Shaffer, David Steinberg, Russell Peters, Michael Bublé, Rich Little, Morley Safer, Malcolm Gladwell, George Stroumboulopoulos, Barenaked Ladies, Rick Mercer, The Trailer Park Boys, and Kim Campbell.
There are also famous "Americans" — such as Ben Stiller, Conan O'Brien, and Kathy Griffin — in the film with their perception about Canada.
Even though Canadians have made it big in the States, they don't lose their Canadian identity and element. The documentary features many moments that involve Canadians but who are not famous.
So what is it to be Canadian?
"If America is hamburgers and steak and if Mexico is salsa, then Canada is celery." — Mike Myers
They talk about pride, Canadian food, the shared language and common references throughout the film. The road trip dynamic from sea to sea also showcases the physical element of Canada. If nothing else, people might finally realize that polar bears do not go down the streets of Calgary, Toronto, and Windsor. Knocking down stereotypes — positive and negative — is a gigantic task, but every little bit helps.
Cohen goes to Las Vegas and interviews clueless Americans, asking them if they know the capital of Canada. One in a group of older women says "Quebec." This is either a veiled nod from a very secretly separatist person disguised as a Las Vegas tourist or a charmingly clueless answer.
A couple young women were also asked the question about the capital. One of them says Arkansas. At least the older woman said something that is in Canada. The 2 women are asked if they know how many people live in Canada. The initial answer is 4,000. Cohen gets them up to 8,000 before telling them that is correct.
Cohen knows going to Las Vegas will produce extraordinarily bad answers. Then again, even people who know a bit about the world might struggle to say "Ottawa," the capital of Canada.
Clearly, they haven't heard the countless references to "Canada's capital" that NHL announcer John Forslund overuses the few times he calls a game in Ottawa.
Cohen and the other Canadians are poking fun of Americans' lack of knowledge about Canada. To be fair, a lot of Americans don't know much about the world around them. They can likely tell you the capitals of England and France, but only because they are the best-known cities. As Eugene Levy noted, Americans hear about Iraq and Afghanistan more than Canada, but that ties into a U.S. news media that reports on war more than trade. This also speaks to why I love CBC News.
Being Canadian debuted late last month at the Toronto's Hot Docs Festival. The film is available to rent via iTunes or Google Play, but only in Canada. There is a strong likelihood of a U.S. deal. The true test of the film is having Americans see the film to learn more about their neighbours.