Founders Sharon Corder and Jack Blum gather with members of our national film industry and some dedicated educators to discuss the possibility of a programme to introduce students to the wealth of great Canadian films. An idea emerges to bring a travelling film festival into high schools. The idea is endorsed by an Advisory Committee including David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan, Norman Jewison, Robert Lantos, Deepa Mehta, Gordon Pinsent and Veronica Tennant.
Six Toronto high schools host one-day film festivals, each involving six feature films screened in three different venues. Screening rooms include auditoriums and theatres but we also convert library spaces, gymnasiums and dance studios, outfitted with equipment and professional tech crews thanks to BaAM Productions. Students are excited to engage in post-screening Q&As with the likes of Hon. Ken Dryden, Harvey Atkin, Norma Dell’Agnese, Atom Egoyan, Jennifer Jonas, Gary Burns, Peter Lynch, Peter O’Brien, John Paizs, Sarah Polley and Tara Spencer-Nairn from films that include New Waterford Girl, Les Boys, Meatballs, Project Grizzly, Kitchen Party, Last Night, Crime Wave and The Sweet Hereafter. Early support for the initiative comes from the Province of Ontario, CBC, Telefilm Canada, Harold Greenberg Fund and the Directors Guild of Canada, Ontario. Since those humble beginnings, we have grown to an organization that presents hundreds of screenings from coast to coast to coast, each year.
incorporated as a non-profit
Canadian Film in the Schools (REEL CANADA) is incorporated as a non-profit and engages a Board of Directors, including Atom Egoyan, Reg Bronskill and our Founding Chair, the late Doug Dales. Telefilm Canada and Cineplex are founding sponsors.
OUT OF TOWN
After two successful seasons in our home base of Toronto, we are eager to branch out and bring our programming to other communities. In the fall of 2007, we serve our first out of town school in Windsor, in partnership with the Windsor International Film Festival.
Provincial expansion continues as we visit schools in Kingston and Ottawa, and earn our first national news coverage on CBC’s The National. Host Sandra Abma and her crew catch the action at two REEL CANADA events and talk to special guests such as Don McKellar, Niv Fichman and Gordon Pinsent. Check out the piece!
OUT OF PROVINCE
By our third season, we are ready to fly even further. Our first event outside of Ontario is held at Templeton HS in Vancouver, BC. Director Andrew Currie presents his hilarious zombie comedy Fido and Tara Spencer-Nairn speaks after a screening of the timeless coming-of-age film New Waterford Girl.
WELCOME TO CANADA
In the spring of 2010 we are approached by ESL teachers from LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada). They want to bring their adult English learners to one of our high school festivals. We decide to mount an event tailor-made for an audience of newcomers, and our first event for Adult English-language learners takes place at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Stars Wendy Crewson and Kristen Thomson participate in a Q&A after a screening of Away From Her and filmmakers Michael McGowan (One Week) and Peter Lynch (Arrowhead) present their work. The event is so moving and powerful that it becomes an immediate staple in our annual calendar and launches our successful and fast-growing Welcome to Canada programme for new Canadians.
During the 2011-12 season we take the first, important step to becoming a bilingual organization. Our first French-language event is held at Collège catholique Franco-Ouest, and the school is an annual partner to this day. We now offer all our programmes in French to Francophone Canadians and French-language learners across the nation, and even have a dedicated French-language Festivals Coordinator at our Toronto office.
NATIONAL CANADIAN FILM DAY
In April 2013, we find ourselves planning three school events spread out across the country (in Vancouver, BC, Saskatoon, SK and Montague, PEI) and jokingly refer to it as “National Canadian Film Day”. The following year, we formalize this great idea and bring the Canadian film party to all Canadians. On April 29, 2014 the first real NCFD is held – with over 70 events in every province and territory. What started out as an inside joke among our office team has grown into an annual national celebration!
THE TOUR IS BORN
During our 2013-14 season, REEL CANADA launches our “tour model” of festival delivery – bringing a specific film and filmmaker on tour to appear live at schools in several cities and provinces across the nation. Filmmaker Charles Officer tours his documentary Mighty Jerome (about African-Canadian track star Harry Jerome). 18 deeply impactful screenings in 15 schools across 5 provinces are held during the month of February as a special Black History Month offering.
HAPPY HALLOWEEN, REEL CANADA STYLE
Everyone at the REEL CANADA office dresses up as their favourite Canadian film (or film character) for Halloween. The costumes range from classics like Bob & Doug McKenzie from Strange Brew, the log driver from the NFB animated classic The Log Driver’s Waltz and Spaz from Meatballs (played in real life as in the movie by our Executive Director, Jack Blum), to more contemporary characters such as the iconic partners from Bon Cop Bad Cop, and the titular character from Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster, to more abstract, creative interpretations of the theme, such as “the cube from Cube”.
INDIGENOUS FILM PROGRAMME
While REEL CANADA has always showcased great films by Indigenous filmmakers as part of our school programmes, in 2016 we consolidate these offerings into a cohesive selection, which quickly becomes one of our fastest-growing programmes.
THE LARGEST FILM FESTIVAL IN THE WORLD. EVER!
The sesquicentennial edition of National Canadian Film Day (NCFD 150) is truly an unprecedented cultural event in the life of our country. Over 1800 events are held from coast to coast to coast, including 70 around the world, bringing together French, English and Indigenous cultures in a massive party that truly united us as a nation. Stars and filmmakers including Atom Egoyan, Deepa Mehta, Don McKellar, Mina Shum, Colm Feore, Patricia Rozema, Bruce McDonald, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril and dozens of others participate in Q&As across the nation. 172,000 Canadians attend a screening with over 1 million more watching from home.
As we embark on our 14th season, we’re excited about what the future holds. Our programmes are steadily growing and people across the nation are embracing Canadian film in a way we hardly thought was possible when we started out.
Who We Are
REEL CANADA: Uniting Our Nation Through Film
REEL CANADA is a charitable organization that celebrates Canada through film.
Canadian films are the stories we tell about ourselves – they open the door to so many conversations about place, nation, identity, and what it means to be Canadian. REEL CANADA promotes the power and diversity of Canadian film and encourages this on-going conversation.
Our travelling film festival has held over 6,000 screenings and reached over one million students and other Canadians since 2005.
What We Do
Our Core Programmes
Our Films in our Schools – We help teachers and students across Canada organize festivals of Canadian film in their schools, and integrate Canadian film into the classroom.
Welcome to Canada – Since 2010 we have introduced new Canadians to Canadian film and culture through festival events designed specifically for English language learners of all ages.
National Canadian Film Day – Since 2014, we have presented NCFD – a one-day festival intended to allow all Canadians to celebrate Canada by watching a great Canadian film.
Why We Do It
Cinema captures the soul of a nation, and in a nation as incredibly diverse as Canada, it has the power to unite us as well. If our work has proven one thing, it’s that Canadians of all backgrounds really do love seeing themselves and their neighbours reflected on screen.
Here’s what one Adult ESL learner, from Korea, wrote about her REEL CANADA experience:
“I think the film unite people as Canadian [sic]. We had same feeling while we were watching the movie though we all come from different countries.”
We agree. Watching a great Canadian film is an amazing way to celebrate our cultures and shared values like diversity, tolerance, inclusivity, honesty and decency, all of which are expressed and reflected so effortlessly by the best of Canadian film.
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