Today is National Canadian Film Day!
What is National Canadian Film Day, you ask? It's REEL CANADA's annual celebration of great Canadian film, as they say, to "pat ourselves on the back for something other than various ice-related sports and sports-related doughnut shops."
But what to watch? Like our celebrities, a movie's "Canadian" status is not widely known. (Speaking of which, did you know that Will Arnett is Canadian?) It doesn't help that Canadian cities often masquerade as American ones in Hollywood movies. Many of the movies listed below were not only filmed in Canada, but are set in Canada, too.
Here are 15 proudly Canadian films to watch on National Canadian Film Day—or any other day of the year!
Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner
This epic Canadian movie, based on an Inuit folktale, is set in Igloolik in the eastern Arctic in the first millennium. It has the distinction of being the first film Inuktitut-language feature film ever made. Available to watch on iTunes and Google Play.
The film version of Mordecai Richler's prize-winning novel stars Paul Giamatti, Rosamund Pike, and Dustin Hoffman. Told from Barney's point of view, the movie follows him as he meets the love of his life at his own wedding and everything that comes after that. Available to watch on iTunes and Google Play.
Half French, half English, this clever comedy is about a murder victim found on the Quebec-Ontario border, thus involving the competing provincial police forces. Available to watch on iTunes and Google Play.
This movie is basically the Canadian version of Bend It Like Beckham. Raj, played by Vinay Virmani, just wants to play hockey, but it doesn't come easy when he has to deal with his Sikh father and white hockey players who ridicule him. Available to watch on iTunes and Google Play.
The F Word
Called What If in the USA, apparently to avoid an R rating, this one explores the idea of friendship (the 'f' word in question) between a guy and a girl, Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan. Like When Harry Met Sally, it seems as though...well I won't spoil it. Available to watch on iTunes and Google Play.
One of two movies released in 2013 called Gabrielle, so make sure you watch the romance, not the thriller. This film is about a developmentally challenged woman who falls in love with a man in her choir. Can they handle a relationship? Available to watch on iTunes and Google Play.
La grande séduction
This French-language film (definitely watch the original, not the 2013 English-language remake) is about a small town in northern Quebec which, after falling in difficult economic times, is trying to attract a factory. In order to do so, they have to seduce a big-city doctor to move there. Let the games begin. Available to watch on Google Play.
This Afghanistan war drama was written by, and directed by, and stars Canadian actor Paul Gross. I haven't seen it, but The Globe and Mail says that while "its war scenes are plenty thrilling,...the film's real achievement is its quiet authenticity." Available to watch on iTunes and Google Play.
Mommy was well received by critics when it was released in 2014, but it was its director, Xavier Dolan, that took the world by storm. He went on to direct Adele's music video for "Hello"—clearly he's on his way to becoming a big-name celebrity. Available to watch on iTunes and Google Play.
This French-language film is about an Algerian immigrant who becomes a teacher at a school in Montreal; the school needs to find an immediate replacement after a teacher there commits suicide. Lazhar has to overcome both the cultural gap and his difficult past. Available to watch on iTunes and Google Play.
Starring Joshua Jackson, this film follows Ben as he learns he has cancer and drives his motorcycle across Canada instead of starting treatment. It's a great film to watch and see the beauty of the country. Available to watch on iTunes and Google Play.
Another war drama written by, and directed by, and starring Canadian actor Paul Gross, this one about the battle of Passchendaele during the first World War. It won six Genie Awards—the Canadian version of the Academy Awards. Available to watch on iTunes and Google Play.
Shake Hands With the Devil
This Canadian film is based on Romeo Dallaire's autobiographical book, Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda. Dallaire was Force Commander for the UN's peacekeeping mission to Rwanda between 1993 and 1994 during the genocide. Available to watch on iTunes and Google Play.
This French-language comedy is about a man whose girlfriend has just revealed she's pregnant. This life-changing news is shocking enough, but there's more: he receives news that he fathered 533 children (he was a sperm donor), and 142 of those children have joined together in a class action lawsuit to demand his name be revealed. Available to watch on iTunes and Google Play.
the sweet hereafter
In The Sweet Hereafter, 14 children, all from the same small town, are killed in a bus accident, and everyone in town has to deal with the consequences. (Director Sarah Polley has two other great movies to watch: Stories We Tell, a memoir-documentary about Polley's own family, and Away from Her, about a long-married couple dealing with the wife's development of Alzheimer's. Available to watch on iTunes and Google Play.) The Sweet Hereafter is available to watch on Google Play.
Which of these if your favourite? Any other eh-mazing Canadian films that I should watch? Let me know in the comments below!
Having trouble deciding? National Canadian Film Day has this quiz to help.