THE FILM CORNER'S 4TH ANNUAL TOP 10 HEROES OF CANADIAN FILM as selected by your Most Reverend Greg Klymkiw in this, the year of Our Good Lord, 2014 (in alphabetical order, of course)
THE TOP 10 HEROES OF CANADIAN CINEMA 2014
as selected by the Film Corner's Most Reverend Greg Klymkiw (in alphabetical order, of course)
Amberlight PR: Commandeered by the inimitable Chris Alicock (music marketing guru, producer and overall legendary launcher o' great Canadian talent) and buttressed by the formidable PR powerhouses Leah Visser (the tireless, committed doyenne of film and home entertainment PR) and Kristen Ferkranus (the sharp, youthful face and voice of numerous film PR initiatives), Amberlight has been on the front lines of promoting a wide variety of superb Canadian films distributed by their equally heroic client Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada. Such cutting edge indie Canuck genre masterworks by the likes of Foresight Features, the Twisted (Soska) Twins and, among many others, Steven Kostanski, have been in excellent hands with this crack team of classy flacks. The team is rounded by Jason Acton in graphics/IT and Vanessa Neschevich in social media. (And gee whiz, Amberlight also reps their fair share of super-cool non-Canuck items for Canadian audiences).
Audrey Cummings: Along with the Soska Twins, Karen Lam and Jovanka Vuckovic, Canada can now add yet another astonishing female filmmaker dedicated to generating Canadian Cinema designed to scare the living crap out of audiences. Cummings has toiled away in short-film hell, creating a variety of suspense and science fiction-themed work in addition to her lovely slice o' life mother-daughter relationship dramedy Burgeon and Fade. Cummings has recently completed her first feature film Berkshire County, a chilling babysitter versus piggly-wiggly-costumed psychopaths with its telling critique of traditional roles expected of young women (especially) in rural areas, the sexual assault, exploitation and bullying of same said young women and super-charged empowerment and vengeance burning with brains and blood-letting. Already a major award winner in genre film festivals, Berkshire County joins a huge swath of intelligent scare-fests made independently from occasionally dour, pole-up-the-ass publicly-funded investment agencies like Telefilm Canada. Berkshire County is being released theatrically via A71 in Canada and sold worldwide via Raven Banner Entertainment.
Avi Federgreen: This youthful powerhouse of art and industry has been a producer on numerous quality Canadian films like As Slow As Possible, One Week, Leslie My Name is Evil, Random Acts of Romance and Empire of Dirt. As the founder and CEO of Federgreen Entertainment and Indiecan Entertainment, his commitment to the creation and distribution of our national cinema has remained fiercely and boldly independent. 2014 saw Federgreen launch an important new production initiative, the INDIECAN10K Film Challenge, a cross-Canada enterprise that will launch several new first feature films which will be personally mentored by Federgreen in addition to respected producer-mentors in every province and/or territory selected for participation. In March 2014, seven productions were selected from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Ontario. Keep your eyes glued to the marquees, Canada. Product is a coming.
Jason Lupish: He's a nice Ukrainian boy in Ontario's wine country hinterlands and he makes movies there. This is cool. With a team of friends/colleagues, his St. Catharines-based production company Open Concept Films has been an awe-inspiring regional force in serving its indigenous community and the country at large. Short films, commercials, promo films and documentaries have been a major stock in trade, but the real triumph for Lupish is the absolutely lovely no-budget award-winning feature film A Kind of Wonderful Thing which is, frankly, a kind of wonderful movie. In fact, it's not just "kind of" wonderful, it's moving, funny and fabulous. Lupish and his collaborators created a film that is indigenous, yet infused with a universal quality of genuinely offbeat Canadian fruit loopiness. And now Lupish and his team are working on a new project that is going to completely blow the lid off. . . well, I'm not allowed to say, but it's gonna knock people on their collective butts.
Bill Marshall: The man is a legend. He founded the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in 1976 and was its first director. He's produced some of Canada's finest feature films including the classic Outrageous and among a myriad of achievements in both the film industry and public life, produced over 200 docs, PSAs and other specialty items. 2014 continued to be a banner year for Marshall's support of Canadian film. As Artistic Director of the Niagara Integrated Film Festival's first year, Marshall brought some of the finest international films to Canada's glorious wine country in a lovely amalgamation of the region's cuisine and delectable spirits. One of the festival's outstanding achievements was its commitment to programming Canadian Cinema including the tremendous Niagara-region-produced feature length debut of Jason Lupish's A Kind of Wonderful Thing. Marshall is a senior member of our industry who commands the highest degree of respect, but he maintains a modesty, honesty and sturdy work ethic that's rare in our business. The man never quits. He could rest easy with any fraction of his achievements, but we know he never will.
David Miller: This estimable young man roared onto the motion picture scene with an unmatched fury and in a few short years he's become one of Canada's brightest young producers and a leading entrepreneur in the packaging, promotion and distribution of our indigenous motion picture product. Amal, Blackbird, Berkshire County and It Was You Charlie are just a smattering of important titles Miller's attached to. Not surprisingly, the man has a whack of pictures that are either recently completed or in development. In 2006, he wisely connected with the brilliant branding gurus Chad Maker and Kirk Comrie and he is now President of A71 Productions Inc which aims at the highest heights artistically and backs up its product with high level marketing savvy. Miller and his partners are genuine "friends" to some of the very best filmmaking talent in Canada. Recent properties include Kivalina, Foolish Heart and Sidharth. And lest we forget, Miller was the guy who led the major marketing charge at the National Film Board of Canada with a glorious Oscar campaign which garnered two additional NFB nominations and a win for Ryan. Canada is in very good hands with the likes of David Miller and A71.
Ryan McKenna, Mark Morgenstern, Randall Okita and Matthew Rankin: These four young men are national treasures of Canada's grand tradition of cutting edge cinema. Ryan McKenna's Controversies is one of the most haunting and poetic short documentary films ever made in this country and his first feature film The First Winter is an utter gem which captures, the bleak, sad, elegiac and utterly hilarious qualities of a bitter Winnipeg winter through the eyes of a stranded young Portugese immigrant. (McKenna also directed Survival Lessons: The Greg Klymkiw Story, a one-hour doc that I understand is not without merit.) Mark Morgenstern is not only a phenomenal cinematographer, but as the director of Curtains (co-directed with sister Stephanie), Shooter and the jaw-droppingly gorgeous, moving and thematically rich Avec Le Temps, he's one of Canada's leading practitioners of alternative drama and the avant-garde. Randall Okita is one of Canada's greatest young visual artists and his films blend a variety of approaches and media to the art of storytelling including machine with wishbone, the knock-you-on-your-ass portrait as a random act of violence and 2014's highly acclaimed multi-award-winning the weatherman and the shadowboxer. Matthew Rankin is one of the leading heirs to the tradition of Winnipeg's unique wave of Prairie Post-Modernism led by John Paizs and Guy Maddin. His rich cinematic output is perhaps one of the most important historical, cultural and artistic reflections upon the unique midwestern big old small-town, Winnipeg. His works include Death By Popcorn: The Tragedy of the Winnipeg Jets (co-directed with his equally brilliant and demented 'Pegger colleagues Walter Forsberg and Mike Maryniuk), HYDRO-LÉVESQUE, Negativipeg and among far too many (yet never enough works of inspired madness), 2014's Mynarski Death Plummet (one of the best short films of the year and one of the best short films made anywhere - EVER!).
John Paizs: Cinema in Canada, in terms of a highly lauded international reputation for its sheer demented genius, does not exist, nor would it exist, if not for one of our truly greatest auteurs, John Paizs. His groundbreaking short films The Obsession of Billy Botski and Springtime in Greenland, his hilarious madcap satire of 50s science fiction The Top of the Food Chain (aka Invasion!) and the legendary and quite perfect Crime Wave, an ode to garish 50s crime pictures, NFB documentaries and corporate training films of the 60s all betray a huge body of stupefyingly extraordinary work that define English-Canadian cinema at its very best. Guy Maddin and Astron-6, both of Winnipeg, owe everything to Paizs and frankly, so does the entire new wave of independent cinema in Canada during its Golden Age of the late 80s to mid-90s. Everyone and anyone of any consequence whatsoever has been a follower in Paizs's mighty footprints of ingenuity, originality and just plain anarchic brilliance. Crime Wave was recently the recipient of a gorgeous 2K restoration thanks to TIFF's Steve Gravestock and filmmaker Jonathan Ball authored an exhaustive U of T Press book which details both its production as well as providing a punchy, intelligent, but easily digestible egghead critical analysis. Appallingly, Crime Wave is legendary for being one of the world's most beloved cult films to have been squashed and squandered by Canada's pathetic tradition of lame-ass distribution of our indigenous cinematic culture. Crime Wave has been locked in an egregious 40-year-long distribution agreement which has been passed on from one miserable company to another and now sits idly in the vaults (or rather, upon a dusty shelf) of E-1 Entertainment's bottomless pit of superb product that virtually nothing has been done with. (They're so impressively huge that they're out-Miramaxing Miramax in its heyday.) With the recent TIFF 2K restoration, Crime Wave is primed for a major campaign to address the wrongs perpetrated against it. The movie begs for a major DVD/Blu-Ray Special Limited Edition in addition to a decent theatrical platform release. E-1's pockets are deep and a mere coin toss would restore and maintain the film's rightful place amongst our country's most legendary masterworks.
Raven Banner Entertainment: Led by the impressive team of Michael Pazst, Andrew T. Hunt and James Fler with a crack crew of valued associates, Raven Banner has become one of Canada's most vibrant and influential companies worldwide. Devoted to the international and domestic sales of razor-sharp genre and art cinema, it has quickly secured fame and respect for breaking new ground in a wide variety of media within the world of independent cinema. The enduring passion of its team is virtually unparalleled and in terms of Canadian Cinema, they (along with Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada) have been the go-to guys for quality genre product in this country. Impeccable taste, sales savvy and a seemingly indefatigable work ethic, Raven Banner puts most Canadian sales entities to complete and utter shame. The overwhelming list of brilliant, talented Canadian filmmakers represented by the company is steadily mounting and it's gotten to a point where virtually no quality, kick-ass genre picture created domestically (or, for that matter, internationally) doesn't have a Raven Banner finger in the exalted pie of blood gushing, mind-fucking, nerve shredding suspense, horror and action. Founders and creators of the Canada-Wide theatrical initiative Sinister Cinema, the company continues to mine potential audiences for our delectably twisted national cinema.
VSC (Video Services Corp.): Jonathan Gross is a former rock critic, television script writer and producer who has turned his unique skills and passion to the promotion and distribution of first-rate product via his company VSC. Gross is a visionary who has long-supported a wide variety of quality motion picture product in the Canadian home and theatrical marketplace. His commitment to Canadian film and television is astonishing with a huge number of Canuck TV series, sports documentaries about our greatest athletes and original dramatic product. He's recently brought a huge number of great new internationally acclaimed independent films to Canadian audiences including Frank, Alan Partridge and, among many others, Big Bad Wolves. He's brash, bold and brilliant - just like the product he represents and the company he operates.