South Carolina students munched on poutine and pineapple pizza on Wednesday as they enjoyed a selection of Canadian films in French and English.
Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina has become the new international hub for Reel Canada’s National Canadian Film Day, an annual celebration of Canadian cinema.
“The student body here really doesn’t know anything about Canada, I found, and they’re receiving it very positively,” said Brad Warren, a French instructor who helped organize the event. As it happens guest host Dave Seglins.
“They know Drake is Canadian, but that’s about it.”
So how did a Canadian film festival end up with an offshoot in South Carolina?
It was the brainchild of Warren, who lived briefly in Toronto and is passionate about all things Canadian, and his Canadian wife, Tanja Warren, program director of the school’s student service center.
“We both love Canadian cinema and literature,” Warren said.
Warren is an associate professor in the school’s French program. When his department solicited ideas for events to organize on campus, he launched Canadian Film Day.
“My experience as a French instructor in the United States has been that most things focus very heavily on France and not much else,” he said.
“When you think of French, you think of France. When you think of English, you think of England. But, you know, Canada is really overlooked in many ways. And I think a lot more success could come to Canadian Arts and Culture in the United States if we continue to do this kind of thing.”
Comedy between friends and Aboriginal drama
Movies on the list include indian horse, a critically acclaimed drama based on Ojibway writer Richard Wagamese‘s novel about a residential school survivor and hockey player. Reel Canada has made it a point this year to showcase Indigenous films.
There is also Guibord Goes to War (My internship in Canada), about an independent politician who holds the deciding vote on Canada’s decision to go to war in the Middle East.
The red violin tells the story of a perfectly crafted 17th century violin coated in a mysterious red glaze sitting in a Montreal auction house waiting to be sold.
And for a touch of pleasure, Good cop, bad cop is an action comedy about an English-speaking police officer from Ontario who teams up with a French-speaking police officer from Quebec to solve a “sinister” hockey-related crime at the border between the provinces.
And while students watch, they also enjoy Canadian cuisine.
The campus dining hall, Hick’s, has cooked up a few ginger beef, a Canadian-Chinese food originating in Calgarypineapple pizza, created by the late Ontario restaurateur Sam Panopoulosand of course, the poutine.
“And I’ll tell you, it’s not exactly the same. I had some today. It’s pretty good. They did their job well, but it’s not cheese curds from the Quebec, okay?” said Warren. “They have Wisconsin cheese for that.”
For Warren, the real fun of the festival is seeing his students learn about their northern neighbors.
Deprived of Canadian Heritage Minutesthey were shocked to learn, for example, that Winnie the Pooh was a Canadian creation or that insulin was invented in Canada.
They were also unaware that much of the pop culture they enjoy today comes from north of the border. Warren has just informed them, for example, that Keanu Reeves grew up in Toronto.
“It’s so easy for Canadian arts and culture to mix with American arts and culture,” Warren said. “A lot of people would say the opposite, but I find [Canada] different from the United States, and I think it’s a unique entity.”
Even more American students will soon discover Canadian arts and culture, if Warren has anything to say about it.
He says he has already been in touch with a colleague from another American university who wants to organize his own Canadian Film Day screenings.
“So maybe it will be different next year as well,” he said.
Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview conducted by Chloe Shantz-Hilkes.