Paul Gross: Why we need National Canadian Film Day

National Canadian Film Day is a grand new tradition, now in its third year, to remind Canadians that the country has a rich and diverse legacy of films and that people need to see them.

On Wednesday (April 20), 350 Canadian films will be shown across the country free of charge, in libraries, small town theatres, schools, military bases, outdoor venues, urban venues and, well, all over the place.

Movies gleaned from Canada’s gifted filmmakers will span the country’s cinematic history. And, of course, films will be available on broadcast television and to stream online.

Unfortunately, Canadian films are often hard to find and, as a result, many Canadians aren’t aware their own unique heritage.

National Canadian Film Day puts films at the public’s disposal to watch, celebrate and enjoy. Writer, producer, director, actor and musician Paul Gross, a driving force in contemporary Canadian film and television, is helping make it happen.

We spoke to him about the event.


Monsters and Critics: What’s the goal in instituting National Canadian Film Day?

Paul Gross: If it draws attention to our films it’s a fairly good outcome and I think it’s kind of interesting that the pattern of distribution increasingly isolates our films and Film Day penetrates that.

You can watch films in small town libraries and the more you see the more you’ll investigate and you’ll find Don McKellar’s Grand Seduction on Netflix and iTunes and gradually the idea is that more and more Canadians know their films.

M&C: Do you have a top five list of favourite Canadian films?

PG: So many! But I certainly remember seeing Don Shebib’s Goin’ Down the Road and while I’d always loved movies I hadn’t seen “us” represented, and it was quite shocking to me.

We have so many examples to follow like Gordon Pinsent’s films in his early films like The Rowdyman.

Hyena Road still
Gross as Captain Pete Mitchell, with Niamatullah Arghandabi as The Ghost, in his film Hyena Road

M&C: You’ve been such a force in our industry as a writer, producer, director and actor – and you’ve stayed here.

PG: It’s not entirely by design. I’m just kind of lucky really to get something in my head I’d like to do and be able to do it here.

I have worked in the States and I’m not uncomfortable and I don’t have a firewall but I prefer to be here. People leave here because they can’t get enough work, or they want a different kind of work.

But I’ve been lucky to do what I’ve wanted to do what I wanted to do in my own home and I think it’s important.

There are great talents producing their own material here like Allan Hawco, and Gordon Pinsent is always working. Our industry is robust.

M&C: Your films Hyena Road, Passchendaele and Men with Brooms are screening across Canada on April 20. And someone’s even cooked up a recipe called Men with Beans!

PG: (Laughs)

Men-with-Beans Men-with-Beans-2

M&C: I love this country…

PG: I do too!! We’re a funny bunch!

M&C: Many of your roles are involved with law enforcement and the military. Is that because of your early years growing up in a military family?

PG: I started in television when you were doing family shows or playing doctors or lawyers or police. Due South was an odd urban fable. It wasn’t a police show, it was funny.

I think with the military stuff, I feel comfortable in that world because my father was in the military. I wanted to do my grandfather’s experience in WWI for as long as I remember so I made Passchendaele, and in the course of travels I went to Afghanistan.

I really have not ever contemplated another war film. But that first trip I knew there might be something I’d feel like I wanted to do. But I’m staying away from war because it’s really expensive and complicated.

Gross in his 2008 war movie Passchendaele, about the WWI campaign of the same name

M&C: What’s on the roster for you?

PG: I got a few little things I’m doing writing, and scripts, and a TV pilot and working on a small little film that’s less ambitious.

Donald Sutherland is working with me. He has an amazing, ferocious mental energy and intelligence and it’s a dream to talk to him on discussing elements of the script. It’s just the two of us talking elements as we fine tune.

M&C: What are you doing on National Canadian Film Day?

PG: I’m going to Breakfast Television and I’ll watch some films.

Paul Gross’s National Canadian Film Days Screenings:

Seven free screenings of Hyena Road across Canada.

Six free screenings of Men With Brooms at libraries across the country.

Two free screenings of Passchendaele.

Find out more on the Canadian Film Day website.

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