While the London Film Festival was having its gala opening in Leicester Square, a decidedly less glitzy and less James McAvoy-related film gathering was taking place down at BAFTA headquarters over on Piccadilly. Just Watch Me: Award Winning Canadian Short Films brought together some classic National Film Board cartoons with newer shorts by David Cronenberg, Guy Maddin and Chris Landreth (who won the Oscar in 2005 for his animated film Ryan). Also, there was Canadian beer.
While the selections were generally good, there were way too many "Heritage Minute" public service announcements about Canadian history on the bill, even for the homesick expats in attendance. Likewise, most of those on hand could clearly have done without the pre-screening panel discussion on why English Canadian films do so poorly at the domestic box office. (Though we did feel a flicker of interest when director/panellist Philippe Bergeron dissed Atom Egoyan — who recently directed Eh Joe at the Duke of York's Theatre — saying his films could be regarded as "self-indulgent.")
If you like old-timey Canadian animation and you missed out on the evening, you needn't cry. The multiple Oscar-winning NFB has put 50 of its animated classics online. We recommend Cordell Barker's The Cat Came Back and Richard Condie's The Big Snit to start.
And if you just can't get enough of colonial cinema, you might want to check out Canada House's Cine-Club, which meets monthly.
By J Kelly Nestruck