Out of the countless industries to take a TKO hit this year, one particularly close to my heart is the film industry. Chris Nolan might have deluded himself into believing his new film Tenet will reopen the theatre industry this summer (and that, if it does, people will actually show up) but I’m less optimistic. As someone who normally loves the theatre experience—the big screen, the excitement, the popcorn—the last thing I want to do in the midst of a pandemic is sit in an enclosed room full of strangers for two hours. Even if theatres employ social distancing measures and only partially fill the rooms, the best result is still drastically reduced ticket sales. I’m no business major, but for Tenet to make back its $200 million budget in 2020…it’s just not realistic. Even with the push toward drive-in showings this summer, there are only so many drive-in options and not everybody has a car.
But if even a guaranteed blockbuster from the creator of Inception and The Dark Knight struggles to make bank, what does that mean for smaller releases? The Canadian film industry is precarious on a good day; historically dominated by the US, Canadian filmmakers have always struggled to carve out a space for themselves in their own backyard. And when I say always, I mean always: back in 1930, at the beginning of what we understand Hollywood to be, Maclean’s called the American film industry “a movie Mussolini” (a fantastically extra description) in an article on “the ‘screen war’ which has resulted in virtual domination of the Canadian motion picture field by a gigantic United States corporation.” The culture was already set: audiences were drawn to the higher-budget, flashier productions from south of the border.
Cut to today, and this same mindset exists. It’s funny, because plenty of films and TV shows are filmed in Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver—our little Hollywood Norths. Toronto is well known as a hotbed of filming, always dressed up as Chicago or Baltimore or some equivalent American city. Vancouver is Netflix and CW heaven: Riverdale, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, The 100, Charmed, The Flash, and Supernatural are all filmed there (and that’s only a sample). But, being American productions, none of these shows or movies take place in Canada. Even our brilliant hometown success story, Schitt’s Creek, is careful not to mention its Ontario locale, despite very obviously being set here (the motel is in Orangeville), lest it scare off American viewers.
As we all know, June is Pride Month. And as we continue on our educational journeys in this electrifying time of social upheaval, celebrating marginalized populations feels more necessary than ever. We’ve seen a lot of ugliness rise up particularly in the last few years—a trend that doesn’t seem to be slowing down, what with the all-too-recent repeal of trans rights in the US—and it’s enough to make you feel helpless sometimes. While we continue to be let down by those we idolized (cough JK Rowling), we can turn to more positive examples (cough Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson) to shape how we want our future to look. As I talked about in my last post, the idea of joyful expression can be a salve against the wounds inflicted by society, a way of pushing back against a force that wants you beaten down and depressed. But more than just joy, allowing marginalized stories to take whatever form they want—allowing artistic voices to flourish regardless of origin—is what we should be fighting for!
For Pride Month, I put together a list of LGBTQ+ titles that span genres and identities, to give a taste of the kind of variety that’s out there. No doom and gloom here (but maybe some delicious heartbreak). And while VPL doesn’t currently have some newer titles due to Coronavirus-related delays (look out for Something to Talk About, You Exist Too Much, Broken People, and Love After Love in the future), we do carry plenty of others! This list was only supposed to include ten titles, but apparently I wrote eleven, because I can’t count. So now it’s a list of eleven titles, in no particular order.
Just before I sat down to write this post, I watched an Instagram video by Brittany Packnett Cunningham regarding yesterday’s #BlackOutTuesday social media trend, which saw Instagram users post images of a black square in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. In this video, Cunningham says to her fellow Black people, “Your happiness, or your joy or your frustration … people need to see all of these messages coming from Black people, because us being full human beings is in and of itself an act of resistance—our existence is resistant.” And this sentiment is really the core of what I want to share today. If you’re a white person, or even a non-Black POC, you may be wondering how to support the fight for racial equality specifically for Black communities around the world. Anti-blackness is a global problem; it might be the loudest in America, what with their endless spate of cop-instigated murders, but the fact is that worldwide, people of African descent are uniformly treated the worst. According to an article in The Guardian from 2019, “In today’s Brazil, black people are still treated as second-class citizens; while in India, students of African origin are persecuted. In South Africa, a majority black country, 72% of the country’s private farmland is owned by white people, who make up 9% of the population.”
It’s clear we all have a lot of work to do to eradicate anti-blackness and work towards an antiracist society. But like any problem, you can’t fix it until you acknowledge it. And one of the greatest tools we have at our disposal is an abundance of resources to encourage thoughtful allyship. From these resources, we can not only learn about the grand, systemic forms of racism, but the smaller, everyday instances that we unconsciously play a part in. And we can learn, and listen, and grow together, for the better. In this post, the resources I want to highlight speak to another, quieter facet of racism that isn’t always acknowledged. I want to highlight the expression of joy.