True North festival strand explores movies from north of the 49th parallel
Let's just celebrate Canada for a moment, because Canadians are generally too polite to do so themselves. Canada has two official languages; the eleventh largest economy in the world; one of the most ethnically diverse populations, with a high rate of immigration (Australia is its only rival when it comes to welcoming immigrants); low rates of crime; a pro-choice prime minister who presides over the first gender-balanced cabinet in the country's history; gun control legislation that ought to be a model for any country where people really want to own guns; clean air, more lakes than any other country, and historically-informed webcomic artists]; it was the fourth country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage, way back in 2005; and if you want to ring the federal government, the direct line is 1-800-O-CANADA.
And then there's Canadian cinema. David Cronenberg, at one time the weirdest great director in the world, is a proud Torontonian. The Glasgow Film Festival is celebrating contemporary Canadian cinema with the True North strand, which presents a clutch of new features and a couple of seldom-seen classics.
Sidney J Furie's long-lost 1959 feature A Cool Sound From Hell (Sat 25 Feb) is about how middle-class Charlie is drawn by femme fatale Steve (yes, Steve) into the murky, decadent world of, well, of Toronto hipsters (I know, I know, we can't believe that for a set-up, either). Alethea Arnaquq-Baril's 2016 documentary Angry Inuk (Thu 23–Fri 24 Feb) shows how the call to ban seal hunting – which most people in the West would support, because awww, seals – seriously threatens the livelihoods of the Inuit community in Northern Canada and, if nothing else, it suggests that not enough debate is being had about how else the Inuits are supposed to earn a living.
April Mullen's Below her Mouth (pictured, Sat 18–Sun 19 Feb) is a steamy romance between Jasmine (Natalie Krill) and Dallas (played by androgynous Swedish model-turned-actress Erika Linder), and how it understandably makes Jasmine think twice about marrying handsome hunk Rile (Sebastian Pigott). Chloe Robichaud's Boundaries (Mon 20–Tue 21 Feb) has a wonderfully, almost parodically Canadian premise, being a thoughtful ensemble drama about local legislators and businesspeople negotiating for natural resources: think Local Hero but with women except men in the leads, and in French. It stars Macha Grenon, Emily Van Camp (from the Captain America franchise) and Nathalie Doummar. Celtic Soul (Sun 26 Feb) sees comic actor Jay Baruchel and Fox News commentator Eoin O'Callaghan explore their obsession with Celtic FC.
John Paizs's loopy 1985 cult classic Crime Wave (Thu 16 Feb) is in the form of a bizarre educational film about a struggling screenwriter who can only write beginnings and endings of films, but not middles; formally, it's a cinematic cousin of Italo Calvino's novel If on a winter's night a traveller. Kevin Funk's Hello Destroyer (Sat 25–Sun 26 Feb) deals with the macho national cult of ice hockey; director Johnny Ma's debut feature Old Stone (Mon 20–Tue 21 Feb) is about a taxi driver who gets caught up in a Dostoyevskian nightmare; William Beaudine's 1925 Little Annie Rooney (Sat 18–Sun 19 Feb) features Canada's very first film star, Mary Pickford, as a plucky young Irish girl whose fella gets framed for murder. Pickford produced the film and wrote the story herself.
Philippe Lesage's The Demons (Wed 22–Thu 23 Feb) is a coming-of-age story set in 80s suburban Montreal. Veteran director Bruce McDonald (Hard Core Logo) presents another coming-of-age tale, Weirdos (Thu 16–Fri 17 Feb), in which 16-year-old Kit (Dylan Authors) and best friend Alice (Julia Sarah Stone) hitchhike out of small town life on the 4th of July weekend of 1976; the great Molly Parker plays Kit's runaway mom. Finally, Ashley McKenzie's Werewolf (Sun 19–Mon 20 Feb) is about the tribulations of recovering Cape Breton junkies Blaise and Vanessa.
Most of the directors of new features (Paizs, Funk, Ma, Lesage, McDonald and McKenzie) will be attending a screening of their films, and actress Macha Grenon will be at the screening of Boundaries. You can book through the GFF website. Go now, and celebrate North America's (now) greatest democracy.
True North: New Canadian Cinema runs from Thu 16–Sun 26 Feb as part of the Glasgow Film Fesstival.
Having launched in 2005, the Glasgow Film Festival has grown and grown: during that debut year, 6000 cinephiles passed through the doors, while 42,000 attended in 2016. Of course there are top-notch premieres, retrospectives and special guests (past visitors have
included Richard Gere, Joss Whedon and Alan Rickman) but…