PROFILE: ANNE WHEELER
Born: 1946, Edmonton
One of the original rebels, it often seems the entire western film tradition sprouted from Anne Wheeler’s loins. If not on a formal level -- then certainly on a spiritual one. Exuding a sense of quiet, calm confidence, she has been referred to as a “Dalai Lama-like” presence by the legions of young actors and film-makers who have shared her many movie sets.
“All of us dream of being like Anne,” noted Lynne Stopkewich, fellow west-coaster and director of Kissed. “She just flows.”
Director of several features, including the critical success Bye Bye Blues (1989) and the commercial hit, Better Than Chocolate (1998-9), Wheeler has blazed her own trail through the wilderness -- not just in film, but in life as well.
Growing up the little sister to three older brothers in the already hostile landscape of Edmonton, Wheeler says she was “determined to catch up” with her older siblings, regardless of whether the ...
PROFILE: DENYS ARCAND
Born Deschambault (between Quebec City and Trois Rivieres)
June 25, 1941
Perhaps the first Canadian film-maker to achieve true celebrity status, not just in English and French Canada but around the world in the wake of Declin de l’empire Americain, Denys Arcand still gets a rush out of getting a last-minute reservation at his favorite restaurant.
“As a film-maker you become semi-famous for six months -- every four years. I can’t say I don’t like that. I’m not addicted to fame or anything, but it’s nice to think people are listening when you open your mouth to say something,” said Arcand after the release of Stardom, his 2000 film that centred around a young female hockey player from rural Ontario who becomes a supermodel quite by accident.
“I’ve been a celebrity since 1986, after Declin. That was my first taste of stardom. Before that, no one asked me what I thought of anything. Fame gives you this sense of recognition and in ...
PROFILE: ATOM EGOYAN
Born, July 19, 1960
Named in honour of the first nuclear reactor in Egypt, Atom Egoyan seemed fated to make a lasting impression. The first child born to Joseph and Shushan Yeghoyan, Armenian refugees living in Cairo, Atom, his sister and his parents moved to Canada in 1963 -- where they set down roots in the gardening capital of the Great White North: Victoria, B.C. In order to make the transition smoother, the Yeghoyans opted for a phonetic spelling of their family name and opened a furniture store -- despite their own creative bent. Both parents had once studied fine art, and Joseph even spent time at the Art Institute of Chicago as a young man. They were the only Armenian family in Victoria at the time, and for the young Atom, a first-generation immigrant trying to find a place in the verdant bosom of British colonialism, an outsider stance came as second nature.
At first, like most kids whose parents have “accents,” Egoyan ...
PROFILE: LÉA POOL
Born 1950, Geneva, Switzerland.
From scrawling on blackboards in her native Switzerland to calling the shots on feature films in Canada, Léa Pool has travelled a great distance both physically and emotionally since abandoning her teaching career to study communications at L’Universite du Quebec a Montreal. When Pool left Geneva in 1975, she did so with the simple aim of learning to shoot video so she could teach her students what to do. She never dreamed of making movies, let alone becoming one of Canada’s premier directors, but once she discovered the medium’s ability to act as a type of psychic paint stripper, Pool was hooked.
Beginning with a small, co-directed documentary short about a bellhop in a hotel, Laurent Lamerre, portier, Pool made an impression off the bat and was given a chance to teach after she completed the program. Un Strass Cafe (1980) was her first solo project -- an experimental short made with the support of the National ...
PROFILE: NORMAN JEWISON
NORMAN JEWISON Born 1926, Toronto, Ont.
He’s one of many young, talented Canadians who wandered south to fulfill his dreams -- but he never abandoned his Canadian identity, and when it came time to reinvest in his cultural heritage, Norman Jewison didn’t just give something back -- he created a legacy in the form of the Canadian Film Centre (or The Norman Jewison Centre for Advanced Film Studies). Located in an old mansion on the outskirts of metro Toronto, the centre opened its doors in 1986 and has since pumped out some of the best screen talents the country has to offer.
Though he’s experienced great success on the American side of the border, Jewison has never been co-opted by the studio system. His films tend to follow certain studio conventions, but he makes movies that explore themes of social justice and tolerance, and sticks to his guns regardless of the potential backlash.
For instance, when Jewison’s most recent film The Hurricane (about the wrongful ...
PROFILE: DAVID CRONENBERG
DAVID CRONENBERG: Born March 15, 1943 Toronto, Ontario
He is prolific, profitable and perhaps one of the most “commercial” directors in Canada. Not surprisingly, he is also one of the most misunderstood. His is a thinker and a sensationalist, a survivor and a nihilist, a humble outsider and a self-absorbed snob, a proud Canadian and a disciple of Hollywood genre. Fortunately, David Cronenberg loves a good dichotomy. In his godless universe, meaning must be self-derived through a process of personal investigation -- and no mental tools can chisel away at the subconscious like conflict and a good intellectual challenge. For this reason, Cronenberg movies inevitably deal with a character in the midst of a transformation. In most cases, the transformative agent is something tangible and hostile from the outside, but inevitably born from within -- either mentally or physically.
For instance, in Shivers, his early feature film shot in Montreal, Cronenberg subjected an entire ...
PROFILE: MICHAEL SNOW
Born 1929, Toronto, Ont.
If there were ever a perfect image of the Canadian psyche -- it’s that of Snow. Born with the perfect name and a desire to make us aware of negative space, Snow may be a grandaddy in the context of this book, but as Atom Egoyan’s foreword makes clear, his vision of the world has framed much of the Canadian film experience for generations past - and no doubt generations to come. For a guy concerned with the mechanics of framing, it’s a fitting legacy.
Born in the very crust of the Canadian establishment, raised in Toronto’s tony Rosedale district, and funnelled through its favored institution -- Upper Canada College -- Snow was born to be a bank president. The fact that he became an artist makes him an original rebel, as his entire life’s path turned him into a living artwork defined in opposition to institutional ways of thinking. Already a painter and sculptor, Snow’s formal film career began in 1956, when he joined George ...
HARKEMA’S GIRL TROUBLE
A GIRL IS A GIRL (1999): The first feature film from Vancouver-based film-maker Reg Harkema (editor of Hard Core Logo, Twilight of the Ice Nymphs, Last Night), A Girl is a Girl is a kinder, gentler meditation on Canadian alienation as it tells the story of Trevor (McIntyre), a really nice guy looking for a that one perfect girl. Little does Trevor know he’s a victim of mass media marketing campaigns, and really, there is no such thing as the smart, funny, Sports Illustrated swimsuit model who lives and breathes to make Trevor feel good about himself. Instead, women are just people -- or, as the title suggests: a girl is really just a girl. For the bulk of this offbeat charmer, we watch Trevor make an ass of himself in a variety of ways, with a variety of different women. There is Lisa, the ex-model with the eating disorder, Lisa, the rocker chick and Karen, as he slowly comes to accept the lack of feminine perfection -- not to mention his own shortcomings. Good dialogue, strong ...
ROBERT LEPAGE BIOGRAPHY
Biography: Robert Lepage
Born: 1957, Quebec City
A Renaissance man with a modernist’s flair for re-inventing media, Robert Lepage is one of the most exciting visual narrators in Canadian cinema -- a talent that may be explained by his entrance to film via theatre.
Born into a working class family which had already adopted two English-Canadian children, Lepage was always interested in performance, a passion that eventually led him to Quebec City’s Conservatoire d’art dramatique. He was an engaged student, and when he graduated in 1977, he could write, direct, act and execute elaborate stage designs -- but had no particular area of expertise. After a three-week workshop with Alain Knapp in Paris, he returned to Quebec and formed Theatre Hummm with Richard Fréchette.
The two produced award-winning work and from there, Lepage hooked up with Théâtre Repère, an established troupe, where he would stage works such as Tectonic Plates, En attendant and The Dragon’s Trilogy ...