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Posts Tagged ‘film’

Detail from BC artist Jin-Me Yoon's "A Group of Sixty-Seven."

Detail from BC artist Jin-Me Yoon’s “A Group of Sixty-Seven,” 1996.

Last year, Canadian cinephiles were treated to a wonderfully curious documentary in Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell. Moved to uncover her own family’s murky history, Polley sets about interviewing close friends, old acquaintances, and key players in order to dig into the rich strata of her past. The film’s brilliance arises from a peculiar curatorial decision on the director’s behalf: rather than sort through the often conflicting stories of her interviewees to find a narrative that most closely approximates “fact,” Polley chooses to let each story speak for itself amidst the voices of the others, thereby allowing each perspective to take a shape of its own. Though the juxtaposition of these would-be narratives, Stories We Tell rises far above a typical family drama to say something truly profound about the stories from which truth, like a mirage, appears to emerge.

The stories we tell help define and give meaning to every aspect of our lives, from personal relationships – as Stories We Tell so deftly illustrates – to the places we inhabit. Long before the first Europeans arrived in the land now commonly referred to as Canada, the original inhabitants of the country had fostered a great number of rich story telling traditions as a way of understanding and being in this place, and you can bet that new stories were fostered and cultivated from the moment that Leif Ericsson laid his Viking eyes on the vast forests of Newfoundland. In the many centuries since that fateful encounter, historians, artists and politicians alike have spent a great deal of time and energy try to pin down the elusive nature of this country. It would seem that Canada is ever in question, and has been so since well before there was a “Canada” to speak of. (more…)

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Why so serious?

Why so serious?

I have mentioned before that one of my chief motivations for creating this blog was what others before me have seen as a the defining characteristic of current national public discourse – namely, its absence. One could find as many reasons for this as they care to look for – the commercialization of our universities, the current atmosphere of fear towards re-opening old constitutional wounds, the limited scope of debate in electoral politics, etc. Discussion of our big national questions is as passé today as ghetto blasters were vogue at the time of the last major constitutional talks.

In such an atmosphere, those who breach the subject of ‘national character’ are sure to stick out rather awkwardly, and author John Ralston Saul is surely among the sticky few. What I’d like to discuss here is his book A Fair Country (2009), because it is a compelling and tempting attempt to pinpoint the nature of Canada, but one that doesn’t feel quite right, and I’d like to suggest why that might be. (more…)

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