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Canadian Film History: Notable Films and Filmmakers 1980 to Present

Filmmaking is a powerful form of cultural and artistic expression, as well as a highly profitable commercial enterprise. From a practical standpoint, filmmaking is a business involving large sums of money and a complex division of labour. This labour is involved, roughly speaking, in three sectors: production, distribution and exhibition. The history of the Canadian film industry has been one of sporadic achievement accomplished in isolation against great odds. Canadian cinema has existed within an environment where access to capital for production, to the marketplace for distribution and to theatres for exhibition has been extremely difficult. The Canadian film industry, particularly in English Canada, has struggled against the Hollywood entertainment monopoly for the attention of an audience that remains largely indifferent toward the domestic industry. The major distribution and exhibition outlets in Canada have been owned and controlled by foreign interests. The lack of domestic production throughout much of the industry’s history can only be understood against this economic backdrop.

This article is one of four that surveys the history of the film industry in Canada. The entire series includes: Canadian Film History: 1896 to 1938; Canadian Film History: 1939 to 1973; Canadian Film History: 1974 to Present; Canadian Film History: Notable Films and Filmmakers 1980 to Present.

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Rex Murphy (Profile)

This article was originally published in Maclean’s magazine on September 2, 1996. Partner content is not updated.

The setting alone seems at odds with the curmudgeonly outport persona whose every utterance seems to carry the cadences of the sea.

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Michael Conway Baker

Michael Conway Baker. Composer, teacher, b West Palm Beach, Fla, 13 Mar 1937, naturalized Canadian 1970; Associate (LCM) 1961, B MUS (British Columbia) 1966, MA (Western Washington State) 1972.

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James Rolfe

James Rolfe. Composer, b Ottawa, 20 Jul 1961; B MUS (Toronto) 1983, M MUS (Toronto) 1984, MA (Princeton) 1999. Rolfe learned trumpet in middle school and played in bands, stage bands and orchestras through his high school and undergraduate years.

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Rosaire Morin

Rosaire Morin, CQ, author and militant nationalist (born 2 September 1922 in St-Honoré de Témiscouata, QC; died 14 April 1999 in Montréal, QC). Editor-in-chief of L’Action nationale, Rosaire Morin was involved in the Québec nationalist movement throughout his life.

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Harry Adaskin

Harry Adaskin, OC, violinist, teacher, broadcaster (born 6 October 1901 in Riga, Latvia; died 7 April 1994 in Vancouver, BC).

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Jacques Israelievitch

Jacques Israelievitch, CM, violinist, violist, conductor, teacher (born 6 May 1948 in Cannes, France; died 5 September 2015 in Toronto, Ontario). Violinist Jacques Israelievitch was renowned internationally for his versatility, sensitivity and virtuosic technical ability. After studying in Paris and playing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the St. Louis Symphony, Israelievitch became the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s longest-serving concertmaster (1998 to 2008). A supporter of contemporary music and Canadian composers, he made more than 100 recordings and performed often with noted orchestras and in chamber ensembles worldwide. He was made a Member of the Order of Canada and an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters in France.

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Canadian War Art Programs

Since the First World War, there have been four major initiatives to allow Canadian artists to document Canadian Armed Forcesat war. Canada’s first official war art program, the Canadian War Memorials Fund (1916–19), was one of the first government-sponsored programs of its kind. It was followed by the Canadian War Art Program (1943–46) during the Second World War. The Canadian Armed Forces Civilian Artists Program (1968–95) and the Canadian Forces Artists Program (2001–present) were established to send civilian artists to combat and peacekeepingzones. Notable Canadian war artists have included A.Y. Jackson, F.H. Varley, Lawren Harris, Alex Colville and Molly Lamb Bobak.

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Maynard Ferguson

Ferguson went to the US in 1948 and worked in turn in the big bands of Boyd Raeburn, Jimmy Dorsey, and Charlie Barnet until 1950. It was during his term 1950-3 with Stan Kenton that he first received great public acclaim, winning the Down Beat readers' polls for trumpet in 1950-2.

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Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra

Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra. Orchestra founded in 1960 as the Lakehead Symphony Orchestra. The first concert was given at Lakefield High School. Its players were 40 amateurs and one professional musician, drawn from the Fort William-Port Arthur area.

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Adam Beach

Adam Reuben Beach, actor, advocate, motivational speaker (born 11 November 1972 in Ashern, MB). Saulteaux actor Adam Beach is one of Canada’s most successful actors of Indigenous descent. After co-starring in Bruce McDonald’s Dance Me Outside (1994) and the American indie hit Smoke Signals (1998), he gave acclaimed lead performances in John Woo’s Windtalkers (2002), Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers (2006) and the HBO TV movie Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (2007). He also starred in such Canadian TV series as The Rez (1996–97), Moose TV (2007) and Arctic Air (2012–14). He is a motivational speaker and an outspoken advocate for Indigenous peoples’ rights. In 2012, he founded the Adam Beach Film Institute, a film school in Winnipeg for Indigenous Youth.

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Napoléon Aubin

Napoléon Aubin (baptized Aimé-Nicolas), editor, journalist, printer, poet, scientist, conductor and composer (born 9 November 1812 in Chêne-Bougeries, suburb of Geneva, Switzerland; died 12 June 1890 in Montréal, Québec).

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Mordecai Richler

Mordecai Richler, CC, novelist, essayist, social critic (born 27 January 1931 in Montréal, QC; died 3 July 2001 in Montréal, QC). A singular figure in Canadian literary and cultural history, Richler remained, in the words of critic Robert Fulford, “the loyal opposition to the governing principles of Canadian culture” throughout his long and productive career. His instincts were to ask hard, uncomfortable questions and to take clear, often unpopular moral positions. Born into an Orthodox family in Montréal’s old Jewish neighborhood, a community he immortalized in his work, he was from the start a complex and uncompromising figure, at once rejecting many of the formal tenets of his faith while embracing its intellectual and ethical rigour. That tension, along with an innately absurdist vision of life, a raw, bracing comedic sensibility, and a fearlessness about speaking his mind, as both artist and citizen, ensured that nearly every word he published displayed a distinctive sensibility. No one else sounded like Mordecai Richler, and few other writers in Canada have ever demanded, and maintained, such a high profile as both an admired literary novelist and a frequently controversial critic. A Companion of the Order of Canada, two-time winner of the Governor General’s Award (1968 and 1971), and winner of the Giller Prize, Mordecai Richler is without question one of Canada’s greatest writers.

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David Suzuki (Profile)

This article was originally published in Maclean’s magazine on November 5, 2007. Partner content is not updated.

On the afternoon of Tuesday, Oct. 9, emergency crews raced to the provincial cabinet offices on the Vancouver waterfront after a receptionist's hands were left tingling from a suspicious powder in a piece of mail.

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Shania Twain (Profile)

This article was originally published in Maclean’s magazine on March 23, 1998. Partner content is not updated.

They are lining up to meet her in the flesh. Hundreds of broadcasters, delegates to a country radio conference, have gathered for a party at the new Planet Hollywood in Nashville.

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Moses Znaimer (Profile)

This article was originally published in Maclean’s magazine on May 8, 1995. Partner content is not updated.

"Far-fetched nonsense," scoffed The Globe and Mail’s John Doyle, while The Toronto Star’s Greg Quill dismissed him as "an outrageous pompous bore, a self-promoting Big Brother talking down to us all.

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Bruce Cockburn

Bruce Douglas Cockburn, OC, singer, songwriter, guitarist, activist (born 27 May 1945 in Ottawa, ON). Bruce Cockburn is one of Canada’s preeminent singer-songwriters, guitarists and social-justice activists. His music blends folk, rock, pop and jazz, and typically addresses spiritual themes and global issues from a politically charged perspective. He has had 17 albums certified gold in Canada and three certified platinum, and has sold more than seven million copies worldwide. The winner of 11 Juno Awards from 31 nominations, he has also received the inaugural Allan Waters Humanitarian Award and the Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award. He has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and Canada's Walk of Fame. Recognized as “a latter-day wandering minstrel whose songs reflect the discontents of modern society,” he received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awardfor Lifetime Artistic Achievement, and was made a Member (1982) and Officer (2002) of the Order of Canada.

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Solange Chaput-Rolland

​Solange Chaput-Rolland, OC, OQ, author, television host, politician, senator and advocate for constitutional recognition of Québec’s special status within the Canadian federation (born 14 May 1919 in Montréal, QC; died 31 October 2001 in Sainte-Marguerite-Estérel, QC).