We have some very real and very serious issues happening in Canada regarding freedom of speech. Human Rights Commissions are being used to stifle free political expression and the supporters of these commissions are using the legal system to try and shut down critical comment through SLAPP actions. When a Human Rights Commission can squelch political speech, this is a real case of censorship.
Back in the 60s when artists were being charged for “lewd” drawings, that was censorship.
Some people however are a tad confused as to what censorship is.
In federal bill C10, there is a clause that states: “Public financial support of the production would not be contrary to public policy”.
Due to this, artists across Canada have begun the shrill cry that they are being censored.
David Cronenberg said: “‘It sounds like something they do in Beijing.” Uh, Mr. Cronenberg, I strongly suggest that you look at China’s support for free speech, free expression or pretty much freedoms regarding anything before making such an idiotic comparison. Hyperbole does not help make your case.
Sarah Polley has jumped into the ring saying: “It’s the job of artists to provoke and to challenge. Part of the responsibility of being an artist is to create work that will inspire dialogue, suggest that people examine their long-held positions and, yes, occasionally offend in order to do so.”
Fair enough Sarah, but it is not the job or obligation of Canadians to fund such productions.
Here is a quote that all you Canadian artists can make use of: “He who pays the piper calls the tune”.
Personally, I think the government should get out of funding many of these “artistic” endeavors altogether. While we are indeed still funding them though, the government holding my tax-dollars in trust has every damn right to determine which productions get funding and which don’t.
Had the government being trying to ban production of controversial films, then we would indeed be speaking of censorship here. That is not the case. These artists are free to make pretty much whatever they want. If they go out of the bounds of what the government has determined to be in good taste, then the producers simply have to round up their own money (like everybody else in the business world).
Canada has produced many successful movies and television shows that can hold their own in the market. The secret to this is to make entertaining productions that appeal to a broad market. This is not rocket science folks. We have talented actors, directors, writers etc. who can and will break into the industry given time. The cost of indy productions is a fraction of what it used to be and online promotion and such of films has opened a whole new world to small producers. Make use of these things and quit whining for my money.
Below are some creative films of varying Canadian content and I have no idea how much if any government funding went into the initial production of them. Many of them have become cult-classics and still hold appeal in the DVD market.
There are many more. I have just listed those that I thought were entertaining to watch though not Oscar quality. My omission of other Canadian productions is not censorship by the way, it is me exercising my right to post or not post whatever the hell I want.
There are a few commonalities in the listing of the above films. All of them proved to be financially successful. All of them made it into popular distribution. All of them pursued genre niches such as cult horror and tasteless comedy that was not as common back then. All of them used creativity instead of massive funding in order to be entertaining. It may be noted that all of the above are from the late 70s early 80s. Much of the reason for that is that government funding for films was not as lucrative back then. If a producer wanted to have their production financed, they actually had to produce a financially viable film.
As with most things subsidized, when the producer no longer has to worry about the quality of the product, the outcome is almost invariably crap. As long as we are funding garbage, we likely will not see many more films break into the broader North American market as we used to. It should come as no surprise that the government funded, 2007 Canadian production Young People Fucking will likely never be shown outside of the odd film festival and perhaps late at night on government subsidised stations such as Showcase.
When trash gets subsidized, truly talented and creative people will often leave for greener pastures. Canada has exported far more actors and directors than it has movies these days. We have the talent, but talented people often have ambition. They would like to see something more for their careers than being part of some subsidized sub-rate “artistic” production in Canada that will only be shown in the most obscure of independent theaters.
We have talent in Canada. Lets keep it here by letting popular demand determine what is produced in film as opposed to talent in mooching for tax-funded handouts. If anything, many of these artists are censoring themselves in a roundabout way by relegating our film industry to a non-profitable niche-market for the latte-crowd to view in little film festivals.
Our proximity to the United States is often what is cited as the reason that taxpayer money is required to shore up Canadian productions. That is simply BS. The United States is a huge market and hey… they speak exactly the same language as us. It is a great opportunity for film to have a huge and similar culture and market right next door to us in order to market our productions to. We used to successfully do just that and we could do it again.
Back to the initial point of this rant, there is no unfair censorship of films happening in Canada. Those who want to produce material that remain within the bounds of good taste will still likely qualify to get funding from the taxpayer’s teat (for now). Those who want to push the limits of good taste can still produce whatever the hell they want, they are not censored but it is time they became self-funding.