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Study: In a Divided World, Canadian Film Has the Power to Unite

REEL CANADA study reveals two thirds of Canadian students say that watching Canadian films in class provides them with a sense of Canadian pride

TORONTO, June 2023 – Research commissioned by REEL CANADA, a non-profit organization dedicated to presenting Canadian films in schools (in partnership with Telefilm Canada, Ontario Creates, and Creative BC) and conducted by VICE Media Group, reveals significant positive cultural impact when students are exposed to Canadian film in class.

Findings reveal that two-thirds of Canadian students who see Canadian films in class say that they make them feel a sense of pride in Canada, compared with only half of students who are not so exposed.  Other data highlight a clear correlation between student exposure to Canadian film in the classroom and greater tolerance for other points of view, better understanding of other Canadian communities, and more insight into other lifestyles.

Further, students who are shown Canadian film in schools express a richer engagement with culture in general, including greater interest in a wider range of content, in how the content is created, and in discussing content with peers.

“It’s imperative now more than ever to give our youth tools that help them feel a greater sense of connection and togetherness,” says Jack Blum, co-founder of REEL CANADA. “In a fractious time, a stronger sense of Canadian identity can be a unifying force.”

According to the study, students who watch Canadian films in the classroom agree that they contribute to:

  • Increased tolerance for other points of view
  • Greater awareness and understanding of other cultures in Canada
  • Greater appreciation of the importance of diversity in Canada
  • Greater pride in their country

The study, entitled The Power of Canadian Film: Youth Film Consumption and Engagement, was conducted in October 2022 by VICE Media Group, who surveyed 600 high school students (ages 14-19) and 125 K-12 teachers across Canada to evaluate the impact of Canadian film among young people, their general awareness levels of Canadian content, as well as usage of Canadian content by teachers within the classroom.

“It was clear from conversations with teachers throughout the study that the ability for students to see themselves reflected in films ultimately opens up opportunities for deeper engagement,” adds Blum. “With this, comes a greater sense of identity, especially when specific Canadian experiences, such as those of immigrants and Indigenous individuals, are highlighted and explored.”

Other findings revealed that the rise of social media hasn’t detracted from the influence of TV and film for today’s teens. Students still heavily consume traditional forms of media, with half (1 in 2) indicating that watching movies and TV is one of their favourite pastimes.

However, despite strong impact findings among young people, awareness continues to be the biggest hurdle in harnessing the power of Canadian film – with only 15 percent of students being aware that a particular film being shown is, in fact, Canadian. Less than half (47 percent) of students say that while they have seen a Canadian film “in the past,” they do not seek them out and almost one in five say they never watch Canadian films or, perhaps more importantly, “don’t know” if they’ve ever seen one.

When asked to consider what might compel them to watch more Canadian films, students’ top three responses included:

  • Having access to Canadian films on TV or streaming platforms
  • If they were generally more aware of Canadian films
  • If their friends/family watched Canadian films

“This study confirms what many of us in film and education have known for some time, that when students are shown Canadian films in school, a spark is lit,” says Sharon Corder, Artistic Director and co-founder of REEL CANADA. “However, lack of awareness has proven to be the biggest hurdle in harnessing the power of Canadian film among young people at scale. It’s clear that our mission to drive better access, emphasis, and visibility for Canadian films will lead to great benefits for young people as they grow into engaged Canadian citizens.”

Survey Methodology

This research was conducted in October 2022 by VICE Media Group in partnership with REEL CANADA, Telefilm Canada, Ontario Creates and Creative BC. We began this project by conducting a 10-minute online survey of 600 high school students (ages 14-19) and 125 K-12 Teachers across Canada. Both groups were asked about interest and awareness in Canadian films and organizations. These populations are geographically representative of Canada, including the Quebecois population, with a 50/50 male/female split. All statistics referenced in this report are based on data from students. Phase two of this project included 45-minute in-depth interviews with educators within the REEL CANADA network, which were used to deepen narratives and provide first hand knowledge of current classroom dynamics. Quotes from these interviews are denoted in the report as “INSIGHTS FROM THE CLASSROOM.”

Telefilm Canada