"As Canadian as... possible... under the circumstances" has been suggested as a parallel to "as American as apple pie" and similar aphorisms.1 Although this phrase is often used ironically by Canadians, it also contains, as ironies do, a hidden truth. Canadian culture developed amid contradictions that forced compromises, that in turn generated further contradictions. As one historian has noted, Canada is a country that rests "on paradoxes and anomalies, governed only by compromise and kept strong only by moderation."2 The Canadian film industry is a case in point.
In the first place, whether one considers Canadian film in its historical or contemporary dimensions, it cannot be considered a single cinema. In other words, it is not a "national cinema" in any sense that term would be understood in Europe or Asia. This can be seen most clearly in that no single national center of production has ever developed in Canada. Since the earliest years, production has been spread across the country, literally from sea to sea. This persistence of regionally based production must be considered one of the defining characteristics of film in Canada3
Two other factors have conditioned its historical development. Firstly, unlike the film industries of countries with comparable populations, the film industry in Canada is not protected by its national languages. Canada shares common languages with three of the most influential film producing countries in the world. Secondly, Canada lives alongside the world's most economically powerful film industry. Since the 1920s, Canada has been considered by Hollywood part of its domestic market. These factors have generated for the film industry a constant struggle to secure an equitable share of its own market. They also created a climate in which production was even more hazardous an enterprise than usual. It was not until the 1970s that an industrial base for film was established in Canada. Even today, there is no centralized studio system comparable to that typically found in most countries. In the early years, activities were scattered across the country, the result of individual, uncoordinated efforts. Production was quite distinct from distri