There are a ton of great Canadian directors that have come over the last few years, and surely there are more emerging talents that have yet to be discovered too. However, how often does a film that is in fact great get championed as such and then have the caveat of the added word Canadian? This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when your film is great and should be seen by the world it almost alienates its audience by continuously going on about how great of a Canadian film it is. Canadian cinema has a stigma against it, people tend to think that it’s not as high quality as other cinema, but that is just the negative stigma behind it. So here we have Chandler Levack’s I Like Movies, which is without a doubt one of the best movies I’ve seen all year and probably will. So why is it being championed as a Canadian film and not just a great film?
Even in the trailer, released by Mongrel Media, the Canadian distributor for I Like Movies shared a quote from Variety that reads “Chandler Levack is a Canadian filmmaker to watch”. While on the other hand, we have another female director, Emma Seligman whose feature debut got a pull quote from Variety entitled “Thrilling”, is the difference that Shiva Baby isn’t explicitly Canadian? There’s maybe 1% of the dialogue of I Like Movies that makes it inherently Canadian.
It takes place in Burlington and has a joke made about it, the three or so jabs about attending university at Guelph, and that Lawrence – the titular character – states he wants to go to NYU Tisch specifically so he’s not a “Canadian filmmaker”. Maybe that was Chandler Levack saying that she knows her film is going to be championed and marketed as a great ‘Canadian’ film which almost feels like a backhanded compliment. I don’t see the same people championing I Like Movies as great Canadian Art, saying the same about Xavier Dolan, David Cronenberg, Brandon Cronenberg, Jason Reitman, Emma Seligman and so forth. They’re all great directors period. No one is going to sit here and be like, 2022’s Best International Picture of All Quiet on the Western Front is a great German film, it’s a great film. We don’t look at the works of Spielberg and say it’s a great American film. Yes, it is important to recognize Canadian cinema and celebrate it, but to so blindly have to insert X film is a great [insert country it is made in] film or director is a [Country they were born in next breakout star feels so backhanded.
I Like Movies, shows its audience why people should love movies. Is it going to play all that differently on an emotional level if they don’t get the Guelph references, absolutely not? People seem to love The F Word with Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan, and the American release decided to change the title to What If (that’s another ridiculous thing but I digress), but it didn’t change the fact that it takes place in Toronto, Ontario Canada. Michael Dowse was born in London, ON but no one called him the next Canadian director to look out for or championed it as a great ‘Canadian film’ it was just relegated as a piece of excellent cinema.
I Like Movies has, unfortunately, been underperforming at the box office, and part of me thinks is because of ALL the marketing behind it giving it the distinctive pleasure of praising how great of a ‘Canadian’ movie it is. What if the Variety pull quote simply said “Chandler Levack should be a director to watch”, what if the marketing and tweets and promotion all didn’t champion it as “it’s a great piece of Canadian cinema”. Why do we have to stigmatize a film by adding its nationality to its compliments, who cares where it’s from? I Like Movies, doesn’t have to be set in a small Canadian town in Ontario, it could be set in Sedona, Arizona, Mackinac Island, Michigan, Grand Marias, Minnesota, Kennbunkport, Maine and it would still resonate with audiences just as well.
At its soul, it’s a movie about a film nerd who is way too self-absorbed and uninterested in other people for his own good and how it affects him and everyone around him. He makes a remark that he doesn’t want to be known as a Canadian filmmaker, but one could argue that simply being born in Canada, makes you a Canadian filmmaker. Let’s not forget all of those Cineplex preshow ads when Avatar: The Way of Water came out that championed its Canadian director James Cameron – as that, Canadian James Cameron, he even greeted “his fellow Canadians” in his opening remarks during the preshow.
The point of the matter is, unless the city where the movie takes place is absolutely essential to the story and the movie itself, why does it matter what country made the movie? Why does it matter that I Like Movies is a Canadian movie directed by a Canadian? It shouldn’t, it has a few jokes that are specific to Toronto, but it doesn’t make or break anything. Classifying I Like Movies as a ‘great Canadian movie’ is like saying Terminator 2 is a great ‘Canadian movie’. If you want to argue that Terminator 2 didn’t have the help of Telefilm Canada, then it would be the same as calling anything David Cronenberg has ever made a ‘great Canadian film’ and not just a great film. No one is having conversations about how great of a “Canadian film” Naked Lunch, The Fly, Videodrome – etc are, they’re just having the conversation that it is in fact great cinema. So I will leave you with this, I LIKE MOVIES is a great film, Chandler Levack is a director that should be watched for what she has coming next, and if you were on the fence about seeing I LIKE MOVIES because it was being marketed as ‘Canadian’, please go see I Like Movies, and more overwatch more Canadian films as well. Not everything is the end all and be all because of a country of creation.