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7 Films Where Canada Gets to Play Itself

Canada frequently stands in for other places on the silver screen. Toronto gets to be New York, Longview gets to be Wyoming, and Vancouver gets to be everywhere else. But sometimes, just sometimes, Canada gets to be Canada.

The Sweet Hereafter

Probably one of the most awarded films in Canadian history, this drama by Atom Egoyan follows the residents of a small town in northern British Columbia during the aftermath of a tragic bus accident. Merritt and Spences Bridge both stand-in for a fictional town, and the beautiful landscape of northern BC is used to contrast the fraught events of the plot.

The Shipping News

Few movies capture the beauty of Newfoundland in the way that The Shipping News does. Featuring St. John’s, Bonaventure, and Trinity, The Shipping News also features the rowdy man himself, Gordon Pinsent.

My Winnipeg

Archival footage, black and white re-enactments of things director Guy Maddin remembers about growing up in Winnipeg, comedy, documentary—there’s no doubt that My Winnipeg is a weird but wonderful film. Is Winnipeg really the “heart of the heart” of Canada? Guy Maddin thinks so.

The F Word

Did we need another romantic comedy about best friends who develop feelings for each other? Turns out, yes. The F Word is a smart take on an old trope, and it’s unapologetically set in Toronto. If you’ve lived in the city, you’ll get a kick out of seeing the Royal Cinema, Rooster Coffee House, and the George Street Diner.

Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould

A man so enigmatic that they had to make thirty-two films just to try and capture his many facets, Glenn Gould was a Toronto-based pianist with a strong focus on Canada’s north. The film begins in Lake Simcoe’s cottage country and later shifts focus to the idea of isolation in northern Canada. Truly one of the best films ever made about a classical musician.

Hard Core Logo

A punk rock band gets back together for one final tour across Canada to protest guns. Fronted by real-life Headstones frontman Hugh Dillon, who has gone on to act in many movies and TV shows, this mockumentary starts in Vancouver and then crosses the Prairies. The titular band hits plenty of underground clubs along the way, many of which will be familiar to punk rock fans. Fun fact: the pop-punk band Billy Talent was named after a character in Hard Core Logo.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

In the most Toronto film ever filmed, Scott Pilgrim spends his time rocking out at Lee’s Palace, fights bad guys at Casa Loma, goes on a date in Hillcrest Park, eats at the Pizza Pizza right across from Honest Ed’s, visits Sonic Boom, passes Insomnia and the Green Beanery… we could go on. Basically, many of the locations Bryan Lee O’Malley drew in the graphic novel ended up in the movie, even a random staircase at the library. Oh, and at one point there’s a billboard of New York City, but a hole in the centre reveals the CN Tower. That shot is for all the times Toronto has stood in for New York.

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April, 23 2021



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