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Education

February Film List

Black History Month

February marks Black History Month, and this year it’s more important than ever to recognize the amazing contributions of Black Canadians past and present. We have lots of great Canadian films that will spark classroom discussion and, as always, they’re completely free of charge.

Across The Line

(87 Min)

Inspired by true events, Across the Line tells the story of Mattie Slaughter (Stephan James), a Black teenaged hockey phenom, who is poised to take the next step on the road to the NHL. As the star of his local team, he’s had to overcome bias and stigma both on his team and in his high school that has a decades-long history of racial hostility. When he starts a relationship with a mixed-race girl in his class who has a White ex-boyfriend, simmering racial tensions boil over, jeopardizing his shot at a hockey career.

Akilla’s Escape

(90 Min)

Akilla (Williams), a 40-year-old drug dealer, goes on an epic one-night journey to find the gang that ambushed him during a drug deal and stole a major shipment. His only lead is one of the robbers, a teenage gang member he captured named Sheppard (Mpumlwana) who reminds him of his younger self (also played by Mpumlwana). Through glimpses of his childhood, we see the seemingly inescapable vortex of intergenerational violence that Akilla finds himself in. As the story reaches its thrilling climax, it begs the question: what will it take for the cycle to break?

Akilla’s Escape premiered at TIFF in 2020 and went on to win 5 Canadian Screen Awards.

Akilla’s Escape is a profound, tender reworking of the crime thriller” – Melissa Vincent, The Globe and Mail

Anything Is Possible: The Serge Ibaka Story

(47 Min)

Serge Ibaka, a newly crowned NBA Champion with the Toronto Raptors, journeys home to the Republic of Congo, with the NBA Championship trophy to inspire his community. He has an emotional homecoming in Brazzaville, where he grew up poor and sometimes homeless, having been left by himself after his mother’s death when he was 7 and his father’s imprisonment shortly thereafter. Despite these overwhelming obstacles, he achieved his dream of becoming an NBA Champion and becoming the first person to bring the trophy back to the Congo. 

While his NBA journey is an inspiring story that led to the fulfillment of his lifelong dream, Ibaka is not just celebrating his own achievement in this documentary but aims to share the message that through hard work and determination, anything is possible.

The Book of Negroes

(265 Min)

This CBC mini-series is based on the internationally celebrated novel by Canadian author Lawrence Hill. A compelling tale of loss, courage, love and the triumph of the human spirit, it follows the extraordinary journey of Aminata Diallo (Ellis), an indomitable African woman.

In 1750, 11-year-old Aminata is kidnapped from her village in West Africa and begins a rich journey that takes her through the harrowing ordeal of slavery, to the turmoil of the American Revolution and ultimately to freedom in the British colony of Nova Scotia. Brilliant and determined, Aminata is a remarkable heroine whose unshakeable connection to her own African heritage guides her over unimaginable obstacles in her quest for freedom and ultimately allows her to assume the mantle of leadership for which she is destined.

Deeply moving and inspiring, The Book of Negroes explores painful historical realities through the unblinking eyes of a strong female protagonist whose story will stay with you long after the telling.

The Carter Effect

(70 Min)

Get ready to feel the “Vinsanity” with this unprecedented look at Vince Carter, the six-foot-six, eight-time NBA All-Star who made waves in Canadian basketball when he joined the Raptors in 1998. This engrossing doc chronicles his role in building the team’s profile and planting Toronto firmly on the world map.

Featuring appearances from Steve Nash, Director X, Mona Halem and Drake, as well as interviews with Carter himself, the film illuminates the thrill of the game and the complexity of the basketball industry.

An entertaining homage to a sports legend, and a love letter to Canada’s largest city, The Carter Effect captures the intoxicating mix of civic pride, music and diversity that makes Toronto so unique. The Carter Effect was nominated for Best Documentary at the Cleveland International Film Festival. 

Invisible City

(75 Min)

A powerful documentary set in the housing project of Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood, Invisible City follows two childhood friends, Kendell and Mikey, who face many challenges while growing up in single-parent homes in the inner city.

Academy Award-nominated director Hubert Davis follows the two young men over three years, setting this intimate portrait against the backdrop of a community in transition: The Regent Park housing projects are about to be torn down and it is unclear whether the redevelopment will result in a brighter future for the residents.

Social pressures tempt the young men to make poor choices, while their families root for them to succeed. Davis doesn’t provide easy answers to the problems at hand. Instead, he shows the real uncertainty and unpredictability in the young men’s lives.

Mighty Jerome

(84 Min)

In 1959, at just 19 years of age, African-Canadian Harry Jerome was Canada’s most promising track and field star, on his way to the Olympics. By 1962, after a terrible leg injury, everyone feared his career was over. But Jerome was determined not to quit, starting what his coach called “the greatest comeback in track and field history.” A truly inspiring Canadian hero, Jerome kept running through years of personal, racial and political challenges, with a strength of character as impressive as his athletic ability. A deeply insightful documentary that tells the runner’s story from his early days through his sudden, tragic death, Mighty Jerome will electrify all those who appreciate stories of courage and passion.

Mr. Jane and Finch

(45 Min)

After decades of working tirelessly to advocate for the Jane and Finch community in Toronto, Winston LaRose decides to run for Toronto City Council at 81 years old. Beloved by those in his neighbourhood – who have affectionately dubbed him “Mr. Jane and Finch” – LaRose’s grassroots campaign gains traction until an unexpected and controversial change to the size of the council doubles his field of competitors and presents an insurmountable challenge.

Mr Jane and Finch is a thoughtful profile of the life and work of an inspiring Black community leader and also offers a fascinating in-depth look at an election campaign with unique challenges and issues.

The Skin We’re In

(44 Min)

An urgent exploration of race relations, this documentary from acclaimed director Charles Officer follows award-winning journalist and activist Desmond Cole as he pulls back the curtain on racism in Canada, inviting all Canadians to understand the experience of being in his skin. Cole won a National Magazine Award for his impactful and incisive Toronto Life cover story about carding and racial profiling. Now, in Officer’s starkly honest doc, he journeys across North America, exploring what it’s really like to be Black in the 21st century.

“Cole’s journey is not just toward discovery, but toward the unveiling of a desperate, hidden truth: the truth about the skin he’s in. And the Canada we thought we knew.” – CBC.ca 

Valentine's Day

If you’re looking for a fun Valentine’s Day activity, we’ve got you covered. Our film recommendations for February 14th cover the broad experiences of what love can look like.

Barney’s Version

(134 Min)

Barney’s Version tells the story of Barney Panofsky, played by Paul Giamatti in a Golden Globe–winning performance. As he progresses from young adulthood to old age, Barney ricochets from one romantic entanglement to another, trying to keep his outrageous father (Hoffman) under control while being pursued by a cop who suspects him of murdering his best friend, Boogie (Speedman).

Based on Mordecai Richler’s Giller Prize–winning bestseller of the same name, this rich and hilarious film won seven Genie Awards and was nominated for an Oscar.

“The impeccably cast confessional, with a pitch-perfect Paul Giamatti leading the way, nimbly traverses the four decades in its lead character’s eventual life with considerable exuberance, visual flair and, ultimately, grace." — Michael Rechtshaffen, Hollywood Reporter

Bollywood/Hollywood

(105 Min)

Set in Toronto and its wealthier suburbs, Bollywood/Hollywood joyfully subverts the romantic conventions of both cultures. Rahul (Khanna), a rich South Asian-Canadian dot-com entrepreneur, is pressured by his mother (Chatterjee) and grandmother to find a nice Hindu girl to accompany him to his sister’s (Malik’s) elaborate wedding ceremony.

As a joking way of accommodating them, he hires Sue (Ray), a beautiful escort girl, to pretend to be his fiancée. Naturally, the two fall in love, and just as naturally, complications ensue. Incorporating the wild stylistic excesses of Bollywood — the melodrama, the choreography and the music — Mehta allows Indian culture and societal attitudes to play out in Toronto.

“Much hilarity, joyful song and dance numbers and a surprisingly touching love story.” — Kevin Laforest, Montreal Film Journal

Double Happiness

(87 Min)

Jade Li (Oh), a vivacious Chinese Canadian, wants to become an actress without upsetting her extremely traditional parents. It’s a balancing act that Jade is finding difficult to achieve. Talking in English, wearing western clothes and going out with non-Asian guys, Jade leads a secret life when she leaves her stuffy-but-warm domestic scene each day. Things come to a head when Mark (Rennie), a white Canadian graduate student, insists on turning their casual fling into something more meaningful. It’s a relationship that Jade’s parents would hate. What should she do?

Sandra Oh won the Best Actress Genie for her performance. The film also won prizes in Vancouver, Berlin and Turin.

The F Word

(102 Min)

Wallace (Radcliffe) is a medical school dropout who’s been burned by bad relationships. Just when all his friends, and even his goofy roommate Allan (Driver), seem to be finding love, Wallace decides to put romance on hold.

Of course, that’s when he meets Chantry (Kazan), an animator who lives with her longtime boyfriend, Ben (Spall). The dreaded “F word” in this contemporary and hilarious romantic comedy is “friendship.” Wallace and Chantry form an instant connection, but are both committed to keeping things platonic, which might prove to be more difficult than either one of them imagined.

The F Word has charm to spare, and Radcliffe and Kazan are irresistible.” — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

Funny Boy

(109 Min)

This heartbreaking tale of love and loss follows Arjie (Nand as a child, Ingram as an adult), a Tamil child in Sri Lanka, who is referred to as a “funny boy” by his family, because he doesn’t behave like the other boys. He draws inspiration from his free-spirited Canadian cousin to explore his identity, and goes on to pursue his crushes on the boys in his class. When he reaches adulthood, his life, family, and his first real love are all threatened as the Sri Lankan Civil War breaks out and brings about life-changing tragedies and upheavals.

Based on the celebrated novel by Shyam Selvadurai, Funny Boy was nominated for nine Canadian Screen Awards, winning for directing, screenplay and score.

“An attractive journey, gilded in summery light throughout by Douglas Koch’s camera.” – Guy Lodge, Variety

Gabrielle

(104 Min)

Canada’s foreign-language Oscar nominee for 2014, Gabrielle is a big-hearted drama about a young woman with Williams syndrome who has a genuine and infectious zest for life. Like most young adults, Gabrielle longs for independence, but when she falls in love with a young man in her choir, both the families and social workers worry that the two won’t be able to handle an adult relationship.

As the choir prepares for an important performance, Gabrielle must confront other people’s prejudices with courage and overcome her own limitations.

“On the surface, it’s a simple love story: girl meets boy, girl likes boy, girl kisses boy. But Louise Archambault’s Gabrielle is much more…a deeply affecting tale of difference, dignity and the healing power of song.”
— T’cha Dunlevy, Montreal Gazette

 

The Grand Seduction

(113 Min)

A funny and fresh English-language adaptation of the 2003 Quebecois comedy La grande séduction, this film tells the tale of a small fishing village in Newfoundland that must secure a new doctor in order to keep the community alive.

When city doctor Paul Lewis (Kitsch) arrives for a court-ordered trial residence, the townsfolk rally to charm and hoodwink him into staying. Under the guidance of an unemployed fisherman (Gleeson), they go to hilarious lengths to fabricate all the amenities of the big city and make it seem as though their sleepy town has everything Dr. Lewis could possibly want. Will the good doc fall for their tricks, or will he see through them to the truth about small town life?

Iron Road

(99 Min)

A tale of forbidden love set against the building of the Canadian railway in the 1880s, Iron Road tells the story of a Chinese woman (Li) who disguises herself as a man and persuades the son of a railroad tycoon (Macfarlane) to hire her onto the explosives crew.

Soon, though, she finds herself falling in love with him, and as the physical terrain becomes more dangerous, so does the landscape of the heart. Beautifully shot and featuring screen legend Peter O’Toole in one of his last roles, Iron Road revisits an important and controversial time in Canadian history.

Originally broadcast as a CBC miniseries, REEL CANADA is proud to present the feature version of this epic tale that spans two continents.

Le journal d’Aurélie Laflamme (The Journal of Aurélie Laflamme)

(108 Min)

She's shy, she's misunderstood — wait, hold that thought. Who’s that cute boy behind the counter at the pet store? Fourteen-year-old Aurélie Laflamme (Verville) feels a little alien on this strange planet of ours, so when she makes a new friend, things begin to look up… to the stars, perhaps, where Aurélie imagines she's from.

Based on the first novel of Québecois author India Desjardins, this quirky and endearing coming-of-age story about a girl lost in her own world is sure to delight.

Liverpool

(113 Min)

Émilie (Lapointe) is a shy coat-check girl at a club called Liverpool. When a patron overdoses in the club and Émilie attempts to return her jacket, this simple good deed lands her in the middle of a dark conspiracy.

Helping her on her journey through Montreal’s shady underworld is computer-whiz Thomas (Dubé), who has had his eye on her for some time. As the intrepid duo embark on a dangerous journey filled with secrets and intrigue, Thomas, an aspiring journalist, uses social media and technology to help them reveal the truth.

Equal parts thriller, comedy and romance, Liverpool is a charming and quirky film about an unlikely pair of would-be detectives who try to solve a mystery and might just end up falling in love in the process.

Mambo Italiano

(99 Min)

A rollicking comedy that takes place in a colourful version of Montreal’s Petite Italie, Mambo Italiano is the tale of Angelo Barbarini (Kirby), the son of Italian-Canadian immigrants, who has been teased all his life for being “different.”

At nearly 30 years of age, Angelo shocks his parents — and the entire community — by brazenly defying tradition: He moves out to live his own life despite not being married. Free at last, he falls in love with his long-lost childhood chum Nino (Miller), and the two move in together. They try to keep their sexuality a secret, while their families worry, suspect and scheme to set them up with nice Italian girls. It’s not easy being Italian and gay, and when the pressures of his double life begin to overwhelm Angelo, his reactions set off an explosively funny chain of surprise revelations, comic reversals and unexpected outcomes.

Mambo Italiano was nominated for six Canadian Comedy Awards.

Maudie

(115 Min)

Maudie is based on the true story of Nova Scotia painter Maud Lewis, who overcame the physical challenge of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis to become one of Canada's best known and most loved folk artists.

The fragile but determined Maudie (Sally Hawkins) yearns for independence from her over-protective family and dreams of creating art. When she answers an ad for a housekeeper placed by a reclusive fish seller (Ethan Hawke), she gains more than just the freedom she wanted, as the unlikely pair develops a relationship that is intensely intimate and just as challenging.

A touching and inspiring story about following one's dreams in spite of life's obstacles, Maudie is an absolute charmer.

"Maudie breaks your heart with its infectious positivity." – Tomris Laffly, Time Out

Menteur (Compulsive Liar)

(111 Min)

Simon’s friends and family have had enough of his compulsive lying. They try to stage an intervention for him but he refuses to accept that he has a problem. All of that changes when he wakes up to a bizarre reality where all of his lies and excuses have become true. His boss is a raving drunk, his sister-in-law is in love with him and basically everything that could go wrong does.

While everyone around him seems to think this reality is normal, his brother knows the truth and convinces him that the only way that everything can get back to normal is for him to kick his habit for good. The newest comedy from Émile Gaudrault (De Père en Flic), Menteur was a box office smash that is as funny as it is original.

Passchendaele

(114 Min)

Set during the height of WWI, Passchendaele tells the moving story of an important event in Canadian history through the eyes of Sergeant Michael Dunne (Gross), a soldier who is wounded in France and returns to Calgary emotionally and physically scarred.

While recovering, Dunne meets Sarah (Dhavernas) and becomes determined to win her heart. When Sarah’s asthmatic younger brother David (Dinicol) enlists to fight in the war, Michael returns to the battlefield in order to protect him. The two men are sent to fight against impossible odds in the battle of Passchendaele.

The film won six Genies, including Best Picture and Best Actor, for Paul Gross.

Sabah

(86 Min)

Sabah (Khanjian) is a sheltered 40-year-old woman who lives with her controlling Muslim family in Toronto. While they are a source of love and support, her widowed mother and conservative brother, Majid (Seymour), are also pretty overbearing.

Sabah is frustrated at home with no means of escape. That is, until she meets non-Muslim Stephen (Doyle), who awakens her long-lost desire for independence and romance. Soon, Sabah is having a whirlwind cross-cultural affair that she must hide from her family.

Ruba Nadda’s witty and timely love story breathes new life into a classic tale of family, tradition, cultural difference and love.

The Trotsky

(120 Min)

Leon Bronstein (Baruchel) isn’t an average Montreal high school student. For one thing, he’s convinced that he is the reincarnation of early-20th-century Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. When Leon starts a hunger strike in his father’s (Rubinek’s) clothing factory, he is sent to public school as punishment.

Leon sets out to change the world, immediately butting heads with his new principal (Feore). Getting his apathetic peers to stand up to the school’s repressive administration proves more difficult than Leon first imagines, leading him to resort to some extreme and often hilarious tactics.

“The most genuine, authentic, legitimately funny teen movie since Heathers or John Hughes’ movies.” — Jane Stevenson, Sun Media

Pink Shirt Day

On February 24th, we are encouraged to don a pink shirt in recognition of our stance against bullying. Because Pink Shirt Day originated in Canada, try connecting your discussion about bullying to one of these Canadian films.

Breakaway

(101 Min)

Rajveer Singh (Virmani) is struggling to balance the wishes of his traditional Sikh family and his own true passion for hockey. Raj and his friends play only for fun, held back by the prejudice and mockery of other teams as their turban-clad crew steps onto the ice. Enter Coach Dan Winters (Lowe) and soon the Speedy Singhs are competing in a real tournament, while Raj is falling in love with the coach’s beautiful sister, Melissa (Belle).

A cross-cultural story of self-discovery, Breakaway is a heartwarming, action-filled comedy, bringing a dash of Bollywood to Canada’s favourite sport. With a hilarious supporting cast including comedian Russell Peters, and a special appearance from Drake, Breakaway will have you cheering for its unlikely heroes.

Citizen Duane

(90 Min)

A quirky comedy with a lot of heart, Citizen Duane tells the tale of Duane Balfour (Smith), a teenager with big dreams born into a family of spectacular failures. What starts out as a simple schoolyard rivalry snowballs out of control when Duane decides to run for mayor of his tiny town of Ridgeway. To succeed, he must overcome not only powerful political opponents, but also his own insecurities. 

Duane's favourite teacher (Fox), his girlfriend and even his mom try to dissuade him from his goal, but Duane's irrepressible desire to challenge the powers that be is too strong. With the help of his misfit uncle (Logue), he just might stand a chance of becoming a credible candidate! 

Napoleon Dynamite — Canuck style!” — Jim Slotek, Sun Media

C.R.A.Z.Y.

(127 Min)

A box office blockbuster and the winner of a whopping 11 Genies, C.R.A.Z.Y. is an infectious, entertaining coming-of-age drama. When Zac Beaulieu (Grondin) is born on December 25, 1960, it becomes clear that he is different from his four brothers. He vies desperately for attention and acceptance from both of his parents, but in particular from his loving and old-fashioned father, Gervais (Côté).

The film follows Zac as life takes him on an epic journey to come to grips with his sexual identity. Buoyed by a vibrant soundtrack, C.R.A.Z.Y. boasts countless moments of true movie magic. It is at once a crowd pleaser and a poignant auteur film.

Fido

(91 Min)

Welcome to Willard, an idyllic town in a 1950s parallel universe where the sun shines every day, everybody knows their neighbour and zombies carry the mail.

Visually captivating, sly and clever, Fido follows the Robinson family, who have been hesitant to get a zombie of their own even though everyone on the block has one. All that changes when Mom (Moss) buys Fido (Connolly), and the loveable brute becomes young Timmy’s best friend. Fido is a funny, satirical and refreshing movie with an all-star cast and a standout performance by Billy Connolly as Fido.

“Currie’s zombie comedy is in a class by itself.”
— Lori Fireman, NOW Magazine

Jeune Juliette (Young Juliet)

(97 Min)

Adolescence is a tough time for a lot of people. Take Juliette (Jamieson); on top of feeling misunderstood by her peers and her own family, she has to deal with her dad’s new bohemian girlfriend, her first crush, and an increasing awareness that people see her as overweight. Good thing she has her best friend (Désilets), and a precocious young boy (Beaudet) whom she babysits to help her sort through the tumult of coming of age.

This humorous and heartfelt fourth film from writer/director Anne Émond wonderfully captures the awkwardness and the pain of growing up, letting go, and learning to love yourself no matter what other people think.

“It’s remarkable… Beautifully written, and sprinkled with laughter.” — MarcAndré Lussier, La Presse (Translated from French)