Remapping Cancon They've closed the Tim Hortons on the Champs Elysées.
For the past 20 years, the Perspective Canada program at the Toronto International Film Festival has been a homey refuge in an increasingly howling blitz of international money and marketing. A double-double in a macchiato world.
Perspective Canada is where Atom Egoyan , Patricia Rozema , Don McKellar , Lynne Stopkewich , Clement Virgo , Bruce Sweeney , Vincenzo Natali and dozens of others screened their first films.
It's also the program most filmmakers abandoned once their budgets or reputations grew big enough to demand more. There's always a Starbucks across the street.
But does the loss of Perspective Canada mean Canadian cinema has grown up? Or grown old?
No doubt there's a thrilling little shiver of maturity in seeing locals like David Weaver ( Siblings ) and Anais Granofsky ( The Limb Salesman ) now slotted in the festival's Contemporary World Cinema program alongside international arthouse stars like Japan's Hirokazu Kore-eda (Nobody Knows).
And, in the place of Perspective Canada, TIFF launches two new programs - Canada First! for locals showing their first feature at the festival, and Short Cuts Canada. The message is that only first features and shorts really need the boost that a dedicated program gives. The rest of the industry looks fine.
Or does it?
Toronto has one of the top three film festivals in the world. Some years it's the very best. But by international standards our local talent continues to underperform.
Come festival time, you can walk through Yorkville and see Canadian directors dazed by all the media attention they're getting. A month later, those same directors are back begging at Telefilm's table and scratching for U.S. distribution deals.
For an even stronger reality check on where Canada stands in the world, talk to a German film critic or a South Korean distributor. Our commercial movies, spurred on by the misguided reign of former Telefilm head Richard Stursberg , are a laughingstock. If you absolutely need confirmation, see the awful Going The Distance . Our auteur films, the kind the festival shows, are starved for both money and, ironically, perspective. There's a whole world of great movies out there. When the bar is Edward Yang or Pedro Almodóvar, how well do we expect another gritty family drama to do?
But it may be useless to keep talking about "our." The era of distinct national film cultures is over. This year's festival screens nine features co-produced between Canada and other countries. In previous years that could have been half of Perspective Canada.
So if our national cinema doesn't matter any more, and our Timmy Ho's is gone, how do we get noticed?
By turning out great individual filmmakers. Spanish cinema is nothing special, but Almodóvar is at the height of his powers and he can work entirely in Spain. Ditto England and Mike Leigh.
In Canada, Egoyan, Rozema and David Cronenberg have all turned to American money and British talent to shoot the films they want to make. And where's the next Egoyan?
In the 80s there was a creative, competitive environment in Toronto that produced what's now the grand old school of Canadian cinema. But it's gone. What we have now is an unacknowledged cabal of government administrators, training centres, distributors and broadcasters schooling a generation to turn out competent, television-grade drama.
Meanwhile, the best of the new school, people like deco dawson , Elida Schogt and Peter Lynch , are making the films we make better than anybody - spare, beautiful shorts and gutsy documentaries.
Canada First!, where Rob Stefaniuk screens Phil The Alien , may be the place to watch for signs of hope. But don't be surprised when Canadian filmmakers reject even this program and insist on screening their first features in the festival's Discovery section alongside their colleagues from around the world.
That'll be the end of Coffee Time.