Culture Days for Canada

The first-ever Canada-wide celebration of arts and culture were unveiled this Tuesday April 20th in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Prince Edward Island. Culture Days is born of six years of strategizing to try to nationalize the success of the existing Journées de la culture in Québec, which began in 1997 and now attracts some 300,000 participants to thousands of events in more than 300 cities and towns on a single weekend each year.

Louise Sicuro, CEO of Culture pour tous, the organization heading Journées de la culture and founding partner of Culture Days attended the Toronto launch to answer questions and illustrate how successful the festival has been in Québec. She was accompanied by Québec's Minister of Culture, Communications and Status of Women, Christine St-Pierre, and by the chair of Culture Days national steering committee and general director of Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Antoni Cimolino.

Culture Days, a free annual event that invites people to celebrate and explore arts and culture will take place on September 24 to 26 in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Québec (under the existing event Journées de la culture), New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island; and on September 17 to 19 in Alberta (under the existing event Alberta Arts Days). The Canada-wide celebration represents the largest-ever collective public participation campaign undertaken by the arts and cultural community in this country.

Read more about this new festival on:


The limits of the Canadian mosaic

In the words of Ujjal Dosanjh: "Sikh extremism is on the rise in some parts of the country, and 'politically correct' Canadians, who let it happen in the name of diversity, are partly to be blamed."

Click here for the full story.


The Canadian movie industry

Monday April 12th was the 30th Annual Genie Awards. The show was broadcast on IFC and was webcast on cbc.ca, for Canadians who don't have access to the specialized movie channel. It will be rebroadcast on May 9th on Mfest and Movie Central.

From 1979 to 2003, the Genie Awards were aired on the CBC. Since, the ceremony gradually lost its luster and much of its interest from the general public. Its current telecaster, IFC Films, is a leading U.S. distributor of independent and foreign films.

The Québécois counterpart to the Canadian ceremony is called Les Jutra. It was created in 1999 and, in contrast to the Genie, has experienced much success. Its last installment aired March 28th and attracted 950,000 viewers. It ranked at #11 that week, according to BBM measurements.

This year's Genie Awards were surprising. It ignored Québec's most talked about movie of the year, J'ai tué ma mère. It was Xavier Dolan's first attempt, a young man who turned 20 during the production of the film. It collected many awards around the world, including three at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. It was also chosen to represent Canada at the Oscars.

The success of Québécois movies has taken a lot of room at the Genie Awards in recent years. This year's big winner, Polytechnique, won in nine of the 11 categories in which it was nominated, including best film, best direction and best original screenplay. Such success casts shadow to the influence of Canadian movies the award was designed to help promote, thinks Hussain Amarshi, CEO of Mongrel Media, one of Canada's leading film distribution companies. "Politics has nothing to do with this." He claims. "My perspective is simply realistic."

The Canadian movie industry is intricately embedded in its North American reality. There are plenty of successful Canadians in the movie business, but the concept of an exclusively Canadian movie industry is fragile. Should the Genie Awards be limited to English-language movies only? What about French-language production from outside Québec?... where would they fit? Would such a direction really help homegrown movies gain momentum at the box office?

Québec and other provinces going their separate ways seems to be the natural trend in cultural affairs in recent years. Is it still possible to be French and Canadian?


Michel & ti-Jean

I saw my first English-language play this winter at the Centaur Theatre. Picture this... in the fall of 69, a young Michel Tremblay arrives in Florida to meet with Jack Kerouac with one thing in mind, have him read his latest creation, "Les Belles-Sœurs". He's young, an unabashed fan (in real life, Tremblay only read On the Road) and vulnerable. Kerouac, on the other hand, is on the decline, alcoholic, uninspired and blasé.

The author of the play, George Rideout, is of American origin; he moved from Texas to Northern Ontario in his teens. Son of a French teacher, and a big Kerouac fan himself, he got into Tremblay's work and quickly saw the parallel between both men's life. As if their Québécois upbringing wasn't enough, both their mothers were Métis and both their fathers were printers.

Mr. Rideout wouldn't submit his play for production before he got Tremblay's approval. Uneasy with the thought of being the center of a play, Tremblay wouldn't read it. When he finally did, his first reaction was a candid one: "I would've never taken the bus all the way south to Florida." Having finally got through it, he directly submitted it to the Centaur Theatre, which produced it.

When I first got wind of the play, it immediately caught my attention. I figured taking a look at my own culture through the eyes of an external observer would be an interesting experience. It was. I went through a roller coaster of emotions. I was most touched by the diatribe against the Catholic Church Tremblay's character goes into. Many of the arguments and the situations being denounced were reminiscent of my own parents' experiences.

Kudos to Mr. Rideout for his insightfulness. Now, he got me interested in another play of his, "An Anglophone is Coming to Dinner".