If you have ever wondered what it means to be a Canadian, you aren’t the first. Whenever I have travelled around the world, I am often asked why Canadians think they’re different from Americans when we look and sound almost the same. The best answer I can produce is usually that being Canadian means I’m basically American but without all the bad characteristics foreigners assign to people from the USA. One might also say that to be Canadian is to be multi-cultural, but really that makes no sense at all. Just because I’m Canadian doesn’t mean there is any Chinese, Indian, Spanish, or African in me at all.
Many people from the above mentioned categories also define themselves as Indo-Canadian, Chinese-Canadian, or Afro-Canadian. As a caucasian and first-generation Canadian, I often have to refer to my own ‘roots’ as well but am usually only asked by other caucasian-Canadians.
Apart from our aboriginal population, Canadians have all come from somewhere else in relatively recent history. At least this is the feeling you get when you live in an urban metropolis.
However, two filmmakers from Vancouver are trying to search deeper for what being Canadian means to people living in rural areas. The project is called Canadian Frame(lines). Alexandra Caulfield and Ryder T. White spent a year refurbishing a school bus they have aptly named their “Pet”, and then took off on January 1st 2013 to start a one-year journey across the small town of Canada in search of answers.
Their method is artistic. They are taking the old format of super 8 mm film and teaching communities across Canada how to shoot and process 8mm film while they take their cameras home and shoot what they think defines life in their community. At the end of the year, they will take their footage back to Vancouver and create a walk-through gallery installation, allowing the audience to take a walking tour across the smaller communities of Canada.
They have been thoroughly documenting their process with weekly update videos on youtube, as well as their own mini web-series of documentaries featuring interesting people they have met along the way. You can check them out on their youtube channel, and also see their blogs and videos through their website. This will culminate in the gallery installation, but they are also working on other projects.
Along this journey, they have also been finding odd jobs like shooting a music video in New York for Marcus Aurelius, an electronic music artist based out of San Diego, and creating a documentary called Coming Home, featuring people who have left Newfoundland and returned home to their community for various reasons. On top of all this, they are also writing fictional feature film scripts and experimental shorts to be executed when they return to Vancouver in 2014.
Soon they will be starting a fundraising campaign to help them finish the last leg of their journey across Canada. I highly recommend that you follow them on facebook and twitter as well as Alex and Ryder are both social media gurus who are constantly providing a wealth of information about what is happening in the Canadian arts.
Perhaps you might even get an idea of what it means to be a Canadian.