Raymond Zhou: Montreal Journal, August 29
Updated: 2013-08-30 13:40
By Raymond Zhou (chinadaily.com.cn)
The cinema in Montreal's Latin Quarter where most of the film festival's screenings take place. Photo by Raymond Zhou for China Daily
The film industry hub in North America is no doubt in Los Angeles, but the very first film projection in North America happened in Montreal, Canada, back in June 1896. While North America is often counted as one market nowadays, the French-speaking part of Canada, i.e. Quebec, has its distinction: It shows a significant number of French-language films in addition to the usual Hollywood offerings.
"Films produced locally account for roughly 18-19 percent of our box-office," says Henry Welsh, director of communication for the Montreal World Film Festival, who is an expert of the cinema of Quebec. While Francophone countries and regions in the world are sizeable, each has its own unique culture and the bigger market could be difficult to access for cultural reasons, not the language reason. So, typically 90 percent of the box-office revenue of a French-Canadian film is derived from the local market.
Now Canada also produces English-language films. But apart from a few exceptions such as those made by Atom Egoyan, it is fairly difficult to tell an English-language Canadian film apart from an American film because the talent pool is mixed between the two countries. However, Canada's definition of a Canadian film depends mostly on the source of financing, and Canadian filmmakers who are commercially successful would usually move down to the US to seek bigger opportunities. James Cameron may be the best-known Canadian in the film industry, but he makes expensive Hollywood movies with hardly a nod towards his home country.
The cinema of Quebec stands out because both the talents involved and the stories depicted are local, thus giving rise to a distinct Quebecois film culture. Given the strong competition from Hollywood fare, it is a great achievement to maintain a market share of close to 20 percent. In terms of productions, around 40 feature films are released each year (41 in 2012 according to Welsh), and the number produced could be higher as it includes student films that bypass traditional theatrical distribution and go directly to the Internet.