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Canadian Film Studies

Course Code: PEFA 1216
Faculty: Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15 weeks
Learning Format: Lecture
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course is designed to facilitate an understanding of Canadian film history, development, themes, and possible future directions. This goal will be achieved through the viewing and discussion of the range of Canadian film production from its beginnings through the National Film Board years of documentary and animation, to the rebirth of Canadian features, and up to the contemporary auteur directors.

Course Content

Any study of film becomes a study of culture as well. This course will be looking for signs of Canadianness in the films that we study, as well as regional differences of films from the disparate parts of Canada. It will also necessarily make some comparisons and contrasts with the dominant industry of Hollywood.

Silent Era

  • First films in Canada: scenics and the roles of government and business
  • Hollywood’s Canada
  • First wave of Canadian feature films and their struggles

Documentary Film

  • John Grierson and the National Film Board: a social purpose
  • The NFB after Grierson: diversification and theatrical releases
  • Television and cinema direct
  • Independent documentary, including features

Animation and Experimental Film

  • The McLaren years
  • Michael Snow and the role of experimental film

Rebirth of Canadian Feature Films

  • NFB documentary influence in the ‘60s and ‘70s, in English and French
  • The evolution of an independent industry: beyond realism
  • Canadian auteurs (French, English, and diversified voices; from Halifax to Bollywood)
  • Recurring themes; emerging styles
  • “Hollywood North,” government policies, and consequences

The Possibilities and Challenges for Canadian Film Now and in the Future

  • The digital age and its inevitable effects on production and distribution
  • Vancouver’s role as a film centre

Studios and production houses

Vancouver International Film Festival

Film schools

Methods of Instruction

The course will combine lecture and discussion with the viewing of film excerpts as well as some complete films (especially, but not exclusively, non-feature length). Intermittent quizzes will focus students’ attention on the facts and ideas they should be retaining from readings and lectures. Discussion about readings and viewings will be integral to the class structure. A research term paper will permit some guided individual instruction and a deeper understanding of a narrowed topic within the subject matter of Canadian film (and require viewing films outside of class). In class meetings students will share brief oral summaries of their research topics.

Means of Assessment

Quizzes 25%
Midterm Exam 20%
Term Paper 20%
Final Exam 25%
Participation/discussion 10%
TOTAL  100%

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to

  1. Trace the development of Canadian film from its origins at the beginning of the 20th Century, including the special challenges of maintaining a film industry neighbouring and sharing a language with the United States and the reasons for doing so.
  2. Understand the role that government has played in the development of Canadian film and analyse the pros and cons of that role.
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of the themes and stylistic characteristics that distinguish the works of French and English-Canadian directors.
  4. Demonstrate successful research and writing methods applied to a specific topic within the subject matter of Canadian film.

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.