Earlier this week, the REEL CANADA team worked tirelessly (and enthusiastically, of course!) to introduce Canadian film to over 1,000 new Canadians at our seventh annual Welcome to Canada event.
Three separate audiences comprising English-language learners in the Toronto District School Board’s Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) programme were treated to three very different — yet distinctly Canadian — films: The Snow Walker, Remember and The Whale.
So, why is that important?
It’s no secret that we as Canadians pride ourselves on our inclusivity. We are, after all, a nation built on immigration, each of us at once guests on our land and hosts to those that come after us. We depend on diversity for our cultural survival. When newcomers are welcomed to Canada, it’s not an act of charity. It’s our greatest tradition and our lifeline. Cultural preservation in Canada today means ensuring that we remain open to as many cultures as the world can offer, that we treat everybody with the same warmth and respect. When, as part of the introduction to the screening of Atom Egoyan’s Remember, REEL CANADA’s Executive Director Jack Blum asked where people had come from, it was almost impossible to discern the sound of one country over that of another. The babel of voices was revealing — people had come from everywhere. India, Afghanistan, Iran, Ethiopia, Somalia, Mexico, Bulgaria — and on and on. It became clear very quickly that many had already adopted the Canadian spirit of welcoming others when Jack surveyed the audience on how long ago they’d arrived. Those who had arrived only a few months prior to the event applauded a woman who had been in Canada only a week. Already, they were becoming Canadian.
To see people from all over the world engage with Canadian content is a privilege. In a Q & A after the screening, director Atom Egoyan was amazed by the richness and diversity of the questions he received from audience members.
In two other screening rooms, actress Annabella Piugattuk, known for her lead performance as Kanaalaq in THE SNOW WALKER, and Michael Parfit, director of the moving documentary THE WHALE, also engaged members of the audience via Skype. In all cases the audience was thrilled to meet someone connected to the film they had just watched.
After the screenings, attendees practised their English by participating in interviews where they shared their thoughts and feelings. To hear how happy everyone was with the day was wonderful, and served as a reminder that sometimes there’s nothing better than watching a movie with friends.
This important LINC event could not have happened without the generous support of the Government of Canada, the Government of Ontario, Telefilm Canada and Cineplex, and in partnership with TIFF and the TDSB’s LINC programme. We — and all the LINC attendees — are incredibly grateful!