Published Jun 01, 2006Robin Neinstein's Souvenir of Canada, a documentary based on Douglas Coupland's coffee table book of the same name, amusingly explores generations of Canadian pop culture in an effort to discover what it actually means to be Canadian.
Wryly narrated by Coupland, the film juxtaposes distinctly Canadian artefacts with anecdotes about Coupland's family and experiences growing up in Vancouver. Neinstein brings the stories to life through hilariously deadpan re-enactments, animations, found footage and Coupland's home videos.
The backdrop of the film is the construction of Coupland's interactive art exhibit called Canada House, a soon to be demolished suburban home that for a short time was given a CanCon makeover. With Windsor Salt in the kitchen, Pizza Pizza boxes in the teenager's room and giant replicas of nationally recognisable items on the walls (Terry Fox's sock, the Canadarm), Canada House, much like this film, is made to be a nostalgic kick for those that live here and alien art for those that don't.
Though some references are bound to fly overhead, being dependant on age or country of origin, the movie is so kitschy that it's impossible not to enjoy. Coupland lovingly reminisces about Ookpik (our attempted national mascot), "chimo (an Inuit word that was supposed to become Canada's version of "Aloha) and those 16mm National Film Board movies (Let's Talk About Weeds!) that are tirelessly projected in grade school classes across the country.
Dryly funny and unfailingly relatable, Souvenir of Canada will make any Canadian grin like a bastard, whether they're patriotic or not. And even though it's a bit dubious to get a sense of cultural identity through brand recognition, Coupland's ode to Kraft Dinner and bilingual packaging is somehow more effective than hearing the national anthem sung by weeping veterans. (NFB)