Souvenir of Canada

Reviewed By Katharine Leis
Posted 03/17/06 11:16:43

"For the most part, a fun and interesting look at our neighbors to the North"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Souvenir of Canada begins with the back story of author Douglas Coupland. Working for an ad agency in 1979 in Canada, Coupland was assigned the task of making an ad for Ryder Beer. This introduction to the film was done as a humorous reenactment, complete with 70s style film, music, and hairdos. This segment set up the fact that Coupland chose to work with symbols of Canada, or what Canada meant to him on this ad. This then lead to further interest on his part about what makes Canada different, and what it means to be a Canadian.

The first part of this film is quirky, funny, quick, and offers a wealth of information on Coupland and on Canada. This was a fun, light look at symbols that were familiar and many that are very obscure in the US, but seemed to have been commonplace in Canada. Ookpik, Chimo, how students could never draw the Maple Leaf in the Canadian Flag, the Centennial, and 16 mm government funded films. Definitions of things strictly Canadian also popped up on screen and were explained.

Later on during the film, however, the pace slowed and a sort of coming of age story on Coupland and his parents’ lack of knowledge about his life and work forms but was not fully developed. This was seemingly out of place, and though it would have made an interesting story as a stand alone, the quick pace and light tone of the film in the early stages was all but stalled in these segments.

In addition to being an author, Coupland is also an artist, and embarked on building a very temporary artistic exhibit entitled “Canada House.” This was a post-WWII house that was about to be torn down, but not before Coupland turned it into an artistic explosion of Canadian Symbols.

A moving piece on Canadian Hero Terry Fox was included. This piece was done beautifully, and should really also be a short film in and of itself. It was sad to see that a man managed to inspire an entire country and some twenty years later not too many remember or have even heard of him.

As a chronicle or time capsule of all things Canadian, this film has captured many symbols and events which are or soon will be dated and otherwise forgotten. As a personal journey, Coupland’s own tale of his family, his trip across Canada with his best friend, and his father’s cattle farm could and probably should have been a dramatic piece all on it’s own. The two together in one film are slightly disjointed, and at times slightly confusing. Maybe reading the book before viewing the film would have helped. It seems that the book must have ended somewhere in the early 1980s, as no symbols or celebrities are mentioned who came after around that time.

Coupland has lead a unique life to this point. Canadian, successful author, world traveler…it’s no wonder that he became a topic in the film. However, if the film is a chronicle of all things Canadian as it claims, Coupland’s own personal story should have been minimized. He is by no means a commonplace or “average” Canadian, and the inclusion of his own story detracts from the stated purpose of the film.

Great efforts were taken to create this film and include much more than standard documentary fare. With such a wealth of footage and information, it must have been some task to decide what to include and what to let go. Though some of the film seems a deviation of focus, much of it, particularly the first half, is a wonderful time capsule of all things Canadian.

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