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Education

December Film List

World Wildlife Conservation Day

December 4 marks World Wildlife Conservation Day, drawing attention and awareness to endangered flora and fauna — whether it be due to poaching, trafficking, or climate crisis. Show some love for our environment and the animals we share it with using these thought-provoking Canadian documentaries.

Revolution

(85 Min)

In this powerful follow-up to his acclaimed documentary Sharkwater, Rob Stewart discovers that sharks aren’t the only ones in danger — climate change has a devastating impact on human life as well. Striking and vibrant landscapes are juxtaposed with startling proof that significant damage has already been done. At the same time, Stewart finds immense hope in the dedicated and passionate youth whose efforts are changing our future for the better.

Sea of Life

(88 Min)

Inspired by the films of Rob Stewart, 16-year-old Julia Barnes decides to follow his example and take eco-action through filmmaking. Travelling around the world surveying the various problems that threaten ocean ecosystems, Barnes takes a deep dive into how actions by governments, businesses and ordinary people can all have a drastic impact on sustainability.

Culminating in the demonstrations leading up to the important but ultimately ineffective Paris Climate Agreement, this documentary charts a path for what comes next and how a conscious treatment of the ocean could present the answer to keeping our planet liveable and beautiful for generations to come.

Sharkwater

(89 Min)

Driven by a life-long fascination with sharks, filmmaker Rob Stewart sets out to dispel the myth that these majestic creatures are bloodthirsty, merciless monsters who prowl the seas in search of tasty swimmers.

Filmed in gorgeous high-definition video, Sharkwater takes you into shark-filled oceans, exposing the true nature of sharks as well as the way human interference has turned this noble predator into prey. Stewart teams up with a rogue environmentalist group on a breathtaking adventure to battle shark poachers around the globe. His incredible journey will make you see sharks in a whole new light.

Winner of many Audience and Critics Choice awards at film festivals around the world.

Sharkwater Extinction

(88 Min)

Rob Stewart’s final film brings another urgent message about shark conservation, as a new threat faces this misunderstood predator. While the inhumane practice of shark finning is being banned worldwide, Stewart goes deeper to find the pirates that continue to hunt sharks by manipulating legal loopholes. As beautifully shot and thrilling as his previous films, Sharkwater Extinction is an urgent call to action, in the face of a continuing decline in the worldwide shark population, with millions of sharks still being killed each year.

This was Rob Stewart’s final film before he tragically passed away in 2017, and it stands as a lasting legacy of his activism and courage.

“[Stewart’s] passionate documentary, boasting stirring underwater photography and an equally poignant score, speaks urgently on his behalf.” — Michael Rechtshaffen, Los Angeles Times

The Whale

(85 Min)

This touching documentary, narrated by Ryan Reynolds, tells the story of a young killer whale, Luna, who gets separated from his family on the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. As rambunctious and surprising as a visitor from another planet, Luna endears himself to the community with his determination to make contact, leading to many unexpected consequences.

The Whale charts the community’s struggle to deal with Luna, since whales who are separated from their pods rarely survive in the wild. Raising more questions than it can answer, the film is a truly compelling exploration of our relationship with animals.

“The issues surrounding the emotional lives of animals — and the often presumptuous assumption of humans that they comprehend them — are explored in The Whale with a quiet dignity and gorgeous images.” — Andy Webster, New York Times

International Human Rights Day

For International Human Rights Day, we have a list of powerful and diverse films to engage your class in a dialogue about entrenched inequalities, exclusion, and discrimination — and the fight for a more just and equal society.

Beans

(92 Min)

Beans takes place at the height of the 1990 Mohawk Resistance at Kanehsatà:ke (also known as the Oka Crisis), a 78-day standoff between Indigenous land defenders, Quebec police, the RCMP and the Canadian military, over the proposed expansion of a golf course on to a Mohawk burial ground. Twelve-year-old Tekehentahkhwa (nicknamed “Beans”, played by Kiawentiio) is forced into an early coming of age by these events, as her innocence turns to anger over the treatment of her people.

Drawing from her own experiences as a child, director Tracey Deer provides a poignant and engaging chronicle of these real-life events that shook the nation, as well as a much-needed look at how the traumatic events impacted youth in the community.

Beans premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and won the 2021 Canadian Screen Award for Best Picture.

Content Note: This film includes coarse language, violence, and thematic elements that may not be suitable for all audiences.

Birth of a Family

(79 Min)

Four siblings, adopted as infants into separate families across North America, meet for the first time in this deeply moving documentary. 

Between 1955 and 1985, the federal and provincial governments in Canada took an estimated 20,000 Indigenous children from their homes and placed them in the child welfare system. Often referred to as the Sixties Scoop, this policy was part of the same trend of forced assimilation as residential schools.

Betty Ann was one of these children, and over several decades has worked tirelessly to track down her three siblings. As the foursome piece together their shared history, their family begins to take shape. 

This film tackles grief, redemption and discovery as it chronicles the family’s emotional reunion and captures an event that remains painfully elusive for many Indigenous people.
 
 

The Breadwinner

(94 Min)

Parvana (Saara Chaudry) is an 11-year-old girl growing up under the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. When her father is wrongfully arrested, Parvana cuts off her hair and dresses like a boy in order to be able to get a job and help to support her family. Working alongside her friend Shauzia, Parvana discovers a new world of freedom and danger.

With courage and imagination, Parvana draws strength from the fantastical stories she invents, as she embarks on a quest to find her father and reunite her family. The Breadwinner is an inspiring and beautifully animated tale about the power of stories to sustain hope and carry us through dark times.

The Breadwinner has been nominated for 38 international awards, including six Canadian Screen Awards and the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

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.

Continuous Journey

(87 Min)

In 1914, the SS Komagata Maru set out on a voyage to transport Indian immigrants to Canada. On May 23 of that year, the ship arrived in Vancouver with 376 Sikh, Muslim and Hindu passengers on board. Many of the men were veterans of the British Indian Army and believed that it was their right as British subjects to settle anywhere in the Empire they had fought to defend and expand. They were wrong – they were stopped from coming into Canada by the Continuous Journey Regulation of 1908, which excluded Indians and South Asians from being able to enter the country.  

This inventive docudrama explores the exclusionary politics, which kept the Indian passengers of the Komagata Maru sequestered at sea for over two months in this infamous standoff.  

A story of immigration and injustice, this beautifully crafted film shows historical footage in a way never seen before.

From C to C: Chinese Canadian Stories of Migration

(46 Min)

Beautifully filmed in Canada and China’s Guangdong province, this fascinating documentary contrasts the historical injustices faced by Chinese migrants over the last century with the experiences of contemporary Chinese Canadian youth.

Focusing on past discriminatory immigration policies, the film reflects on the meaning of prejudice and exclusion to those who experienced it and those who did not. By calling attention to the diverse nature of contemporary Chinese Canadian identities, the film paints an inclusive and diverse picture of Canada as a nation.

From C to C was nominated for three Canadian Screen Awards, including Best Direction in a Documentary Program or Series.

nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up

(98 Min)

On August 9, 2016, a 22-year-old Cree man named Colten Boushie was killed by a gunshot to the back of his head after entering a rural farm property in Saskatchewan with his friends. When an all-white jury acquitted the white farmer of all charges, the case received international attention and sent Colten’s family and community on a quest to fix the Canadian justice system.

Sensitively directed by Tasha Hubbard, this profoundly affecting documentary weaves a narrative encompassing the filmmaker’s own family story, the history of colonialism on the Prairies, and a vision of a future where Indigenous children can live safely on their homelands.

Nîpawistamâsowin was the opening night film at Hot Docs 2019, where it won the prize for Best Canadian Documentary.

Maurice Richard (The Rocket)

(124 Min)

The Rocket traces the meteoric rise of hockey legend Maurice Richard (Dupuis), from his humble beginnings as a Montreal machinist during the Depression to star of the Canadiens and the greatest scorer in hockey.

But this is much more than a sports movie. Director Binamé frames the story in a cultural context: It isn’t until Richard, a man of few words, begins to speak his mind about the inequalities and prejudice directed toward French Canadians that he finds his voice.

Many feel that the riots caused by Richard’s suspension in 1955 were the spark that fuelled the Quiet Revolution in Quebec. This hockey blockbuster is chock-full of heart and history.

The Rocket was nominated for 13 Genie Awards and won nine.

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 

Status Quo? The Unfinished Business of Feminism in Canada

(87 Min)

Feminism has shaped the society we live in. But just how far has it brought us, and how relevant is it today? This feature documentary zeroes in on key concerns such as violence against women, access to abortion, and universal childcare, asking how much progress we have truly made on these issues.

Rich with archival material and powerful contemporary stories, Status Quo? uncovers answers that are provocative and at times shocking. A striking, in-depth documentary that pays homage to Canada’s feminist forerunners and raises important questions about where and how we should move on from here.

Holiday Season

If you’re looking for films about the holiday season, REEL CANADA has you covered. Check out any of these great films to engage in a discussion about everything that the holiday season brings, and what it means for each of us.

A Christmas Story

(94 Min)

In this Christmas classic, all Ralphie wants for Christmas is the brand new Red Rider B.B. Gun, and he’ll stop at nothing to convince his quirky parents to get it for him.

The Man Who Invented Christmas

(104 Min)

After a string of flops, Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey) finds inspiration from his own life to write his most famous work, A Christmas Carol. With a tight deadline and doubt over how successful a Christmas book can be, Dickens must work around the clock and ends up living out the novel’s most famous scenes in his own study, in order to find the story that would come to be beloved by millions.

Also featuring screen legend Christopher Plummer as Ebenezer Scrooge, The Man Who Invented Christmas is a fascinating look behind the scenes of the creation of a classic and beloved novel, and a charming portrait of one of the most famous authors of all time.

“A surprisingly fresh movie about a story we all know very well.” – Peter Howell, The Toronto Star