Souvenir of Canada Robin Neinstein

Anyone who has ever criticised zeitgeist-y author Douglas Coupland for not being Canadian enough should see Souvenir of Canada, the documentary film adaptation of his two books of the same name. Holding the unexpected honour of being the first adaptation of any of Coupland’s books, the film takes his meditation on Canadian kitsch as national identity and adds a contemporary, personal thread to move the proceedings along. Director Robin Neinstein follows Coupland as he builds his temporary art installation, "Canada House” — a post-war, suburban Vancouver home stripped down, painted white and packed with Canadiana as diverse as Pizza Pizza boxes, button blankets and two-headed geese — and moves beyond a superficial mockery of goofy artefacts to craft a warm look at the unique environment that shaped his pop culture-obsessed protagonist. The film isn’t short on footage from old NFB shorts like How to Build an Igloo or delightfully cheesy game shows like Double Up, but the heart of the movie lies in Coupland’s interactions with his caring but sometimes distant family and the retro-stylised re-enactments of his personal journey from globe-trotting expatriate to proud owner of a home just a few blocks from where he grew up. The contrast between his hilariously wry presence and his stoic, hockey-loving, skeet-shooting family grounds the film and helps maintain the balance between ephemera like "Chimo” — Canada’s attempt at a national version of "Aloha” — and more solemn reflections like "Our water equals ourselves; diminished water is a diminished collective soul, so we don’t give that up easily.” Coupland’s narration is typically deadpan; he points out that Terry Fox is exceptional in that "he is the only Canadian that all Canadians agree on” and he has the most pronounced "aboot” this side of Beachcombers. The best moments occur when this cool demeanour is disrupted; his shocking discovery that his retired doctor, recreational-farming father actually reads his novels results in one of the most touching scenes in the film. Fans of Coupland specifically and Canadian culture in general will enjoy this documentary immensely; it’s "tongue in cheek,” doesn’t take itself too seriously and isn’t easily defined, kind of like Canada itself. Extras include commentary with Douglas Coupland, Robin Neinstein and producer Robert Cohen, an interview with Douglas Coupland, teasers, deleted scenes and some snippets from several classic NFB shorts referenced in the film.