Language barrier: Why some of Canada's diverse filmmakers are shut out of funding

Language barrier: Why some of Canada's diverse filmmakers are shut out of funding
From CBC - March 10, 2018

A small film called Avathe story of a teenage Iranian girl facing pressures from family and societyis the biggest movie at this year's Canadian Screen Awards. It has eight nominations and one special win already: it was announced in late January that Ava had won the Best First Feature Award, sponsored by Telefilm Canada.

Telefilm isthe country's main film funding agency, helpingCanadian filmmakers get their movies made. Last fiscal year, Telefilm allocatedmore than $100 million to the production and promotion of Canadian films.

ButAvawas noteligible for Telefilm funding.

That's because writer-director Sadaf Foroughi is a Canadian citizen but decided to make Ava in Farsi, her native language, and film it in Iran.

The co-production with Iran and Qatarqualified as a Canadian film under the federal government's rules, since key creative roles are filled by Canadians. But Telefilm only finances films made in English, French or Indigenous languages.

As a result, Foroughi had to rely on smaller grants from arts councils, which meant making her film on a shoestring budget, and sometimes not having enough money left over to feed herself.

"I had lots of difficulties," she told CBCNews. "Sometimes I ate less to keep all the money, because I knew that I did not have any other funds."

Films in Mandarin, Korean also shut out

Foroughi is not the only diverse Canadian filmmaker facing this language barrier.

Last year, Old Stone by director Johnny Ma won the same Best First Feature award sponsored by Telefilm. Itwas nominated for fiveCanadian Screen Awards, but it also was not eligible for Telefilm funding because it was made in Mandarin.

Albert Shin was born in Canada of South Korean descent, and decided to make his debut feature film,In Her Place, in Korean. His film played the Toronto International Film Festival, and garnered sevenCanadian Screen Award nominations in 2015.

Even though it also qualifies as a Canadian film, it too was ineligible forfunding from Telefilm because of language, a situation Shin calls "frustrating."

He feels a film can be "uniquely Canadian" due to the artistic sensibility of its writer and director, even when it is set outside of Canada and filmed in a language other than English, French or an Indigenous language.

A havery difficult choice'

The executive director of Telefilm Canada says the agencyreceives four to five times more requests from filmmakers than itcan afford to fund.

Films 'uniquely Canadian'


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