“O Canada! Our home and native land!” In celebration of today being Canada’s birthday, I thought I would take a moment to shine a light on Canada’s contribution to the world of cinema. Instead of ranking what I consider to be the best Canadian films of all time, I want to focus on some of the wonderful filmmakers this nation has produced. Though there are a slew of fantastic Canadian filmmakers, these individuals in particular have played key roles in my love of cinema:

David Cronenberg

David Cronenberg
As was pointed out in parts one and two of our Auteurs piece on Cronenberg, he is a director who continually marches to his own beat. Frankly, the world of cinema is so much better for it. There is simply no other director who can send shivers up my spine in such thought-provoking and disturbing ways.

Recommended Viewing: Dead Ringers, Crash, A History of Violence.

Sarah Polley

Sarah Polley
Polley has been an acting treasure in Canada for years, but it is her work as a director that has left a mark on me. I absolutely adored Away from Her and she has shown in subsequent films that her success is no fluke. While I did not love Take this Waltz as much as my peers did, my appreciation for it grew further after being blown away by Stories We Tell last year. Similar to a few of the young directors on this list, I am eager to see the heights that Polley’s directorial career will reach.

Recommended Viewing: Away from Her, Take This Waltz, Stories We Tell.

Bruce McDonald

Bruce McDonald
I have always viewed Bruce McDonald in the same vein as filmmaker Richard Linklater, but with a slightly more rock n’ roll edge. Weird comparison, I know. However, I have always been fascinated with how McDonald explores humanity and the medium of film itself. Whether he is playing with genre tropes or trying out new editing techniques, McDonald is always pushing both the boundaries of film and the audience forward.

Recommended Viewing: Highway 61, Hard Core Logo, Pontypool.

Xavier Dolan

Xavier Dolan
He is my current cinematic obsession, but I admit to being late to the party when it comes to Dolan’s films. After procrastinating for years, I recently sat down with his debut film I Killed My Mother and was blown away by his filmmaking style. Like a drug addict I quickly consumed the next two films he made within a matter of days. I have not fallen for a director this hard in years. My only regret is that I missed his latest film, Tom at the Farm, when it had its limited theatrical release a few months back.

Recommended Viewing: I Killed My Mother, Heartbeats, Laurence Anyways.

Clément Virgo

Clément Virgo
Growing up there were three black filmmakers that really made an impact on my film watching as a teen: Spike Lee, John Singleton and Clément Virgo. Considering that a close family friend worked on a few of Virgo’s earlier films, I have always had a vested interest in his work over the years. Aside from making feature films, Virgo has also tried his hand at directing on the small screen for shows like The Wire and The Listener. Virgo’s next project is an adaptation of the award-winning novel The Book of Negroes. The hotly anticipated mini-series is set to premiere in the fall and I am already eagerly counting down the days.

Recommended Viewing: Rude, The Planet of Junior Brown, Lie with Me.

Denis Villeneuve

Denis Villeneuve
I have been a fan of Villeneuve ever since his debut feature August 32nd on Earth, so it warms the heart to see the acclaim he is reaching now. After the critical praise he received for last year’s Prisoners, and this year’s Enemy, Villeneuve is on his way to being one of the most in demand filmmakers in Hollywood. According to IMDB, his next two films will feature the likes of Amy Adams and Josh Brolin. Needless to say, he is a director I will follow anywhere.

Recommended Viewing: Maelström, Polytechnique, Prisoners.

Denys Arcand

Denys Arcand
One of the most highly celebrated filmmakers to come out of Quebec, Arcand is one of those filmmakers who I stumbled on by chance. I had viewed three of his film prior to realizing the significance of the man behind them. In retrospect, this was probably a good thing as it allowed me to absorb his character studies without any preconceived notions. This is probably why I enjoyed his film Love & Human Remains far more than most seem to.

Recommended Viewing: The Decline of the American Empire, Jesus of Montreal, The Barbarian Invasion.

James Cameron

James Cameron
Say what you will about the man’s Oscar speeches, but James Cameron knows how to make engaging blockbusters. If I stumble across any of his films on television, with the exception of Avatar, I will sit and watch them without hesitation. One thing I have always admired about Cameron is the way in which he seamlessly blends technical innovation with storytelling. Unlike other directors who merely want to blow stuff up on screen, Cameron actually makes us care about his characters.

Recommended Viewing: Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, True Lies.

Sean Garrity

Sean Garrity
Ever since being blindsided by his wonderful film Inertia, I have really come to enjoy Sean Garrity’s brand of relationship centric films. He makes accessible films that are both smart and honest. While his subsequent films have not quite topped Inertia for me, though My Awkward Sexual Adventure is a treat, Garrity has not even cracked the surface of his full potential.

Recommended Viewing: Inertia, Lucid, My Awkward Sexual Adventure.

Atom Egoyan

Atom Egoyan
There has been a fair bit of discussion online regarding whether Atom Egoyan has gotten too mainstream in recent years. Some have even argued that he is no longer the cutting edge filmmaker he used to be. While films like Devil’s Knot do feel a little safe compared to his early works, I think Egoyan is too talented of a filmmaker to simply dismiss. In the early 90s Egoyan’s films opened my eyes to the endless possibilities that cinema, not just Canadian cinema, had to offer.

Recommended Viewing: Exotica, The Adjusters, The Sweet Hereafter.

Honourable Mentions: Vincenzo Natali, Patricia Rozema, Gary Burns, Jean-Claude Lauzon, Mina Sum, Sudz Sutherland, Thom Fitzgerald, Don McKellar, Anne Wheeler, Robert LePage, Guy Maddin, and John Greyson.

9 Comments

    1. Some of these directors (e.g. Xavier Dolan and Sean Garrity) currently have films that are streaming on Netflix US. I recommend giving them a look if you are interested in checking out their works. Even Cronenberg’s son, Brandon, has a body horror film that is available on Netflix as well.

      1. Sorry, missed this reply! Obviously The Fly is a favourite. But I also like Shivers and A History of Violence. I’m actually meeting the guy who wrote A History of Violence tomorrow

  1. I didn’t know many of these names, so thanks for the suggestions.

    And I too look forward to following Polley’s career. She is very promising.

    1. According to an article on Deadline.com, Paramount wants Polley to direct an adaptation of John Green’s novel Looking for Alaska. At this point nothing is set in stone, so we will have to wait and see what she decides to make next.

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