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Identity Crisis in Canadian Film Essay

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Identity Crisis in Canadian Film


Much has been written about the ways in which Canada's state as a nation is, as Peter Harcourt writes, "described" and hence, "imagined" (Harcourt, "The Canadian Nation -- An Unfinished Text", 6) through the cultural products that it produces. Harcourt's terms are justifiably elusive. The familiar concept of "Canadian culture", and hence Canadian cinema, within critical terminology is essentially based on the principle that the ideology of a national identity, supposedly limited by such tangible parameters as lines on a map, emerges from a common geographical and mythological experience among its people. The concept that cultural products produced in Canada will be somehow innately "Canadian" in form and content first presupposes the existence of such things as inherently Canadian qualities that can be observed. Second, it presupposes a certain commonality to all Canadian artists and posits them as vessels through which these said "inherently Canadian qualities" can naturally flow. Third, it also assumes the loosely Lacanian principle that Canadian consumers of culture are predisposed to identify and enjoy the semiotic and mythological systems of their nation, and further connotes that Canadians have fair access to their own cultural products. Since these assumptions are indeed flawed but not altogether false, this paper will deal with the general relationship between the concept of Canada, its cultural texts, and its mythological and critical discourse as an unresolved problematic that should be left "open" in order to maximize the "meaning potential" of films as cultural texts within the context of "national identity," an ideological construct that remains constantly in flux.

However pr...


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...cate American entertainment films. But what was the cost to the development of Canada's supposed "cultural identity" and the perogative of the Canadian filmmaker to make a film without mimicking Classic Hollywood style and theme? Toward the mid-1980s, following the demise of the Capital Cost Allowance tax shelter in 1982, the "success" of a Canadian film was determined less by its forecast box office potential. The trend in the late 1970s and the early 1980s towards what Ted Magder calls the "If you can't beat `em join `em" (Magder, 169) relationship with the commercial Hollywood production infrastructure, was met in the mid-1980s by an equally vehement movement, which maintained that the infiltration of American culture and the adoption of their economic or "big-business" approach was precisely the problem with the Canadian film industry, and hence Canadian films.


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