Bill C-10 and the f-word movie, yet again.


The Canadian Press reports that the Senate is going to amend the controversial bits of Bill C-10 — that is, the bits that would allow the government to deny tax credits to Canadian films and TV shows if they contradict certain as-yet-undefined moral or social standards — even though the bill has already been approved by the House of Commons.

This sets up an interesting situation. Most of the Senators are Liberal, and none of them are elected, and virtually all of them were appointed by previous prime ministers. Meanwhile, in the House of Commons, the Tories are running a two-year-old minority government, and the opposition parties — of which there are three — could have ganged up on the Tories and killed the bill if they had wanted to. But they didn’t. And yet, according to a recent Ipsos Reid poll, a “slim majority” of the public is on the side of the unelected Senators, rather than the elected MPs, on this issue.

What makes this situation even more interesting is that the Tories called this bill a confidence measure, meaning any defeat of it in the House of Commons would have brought the government down and prompted another election. (That, presumably, explains why the opposition parties didn’t gang up on the Tories and kill the bill: they don’t want an election right now.) But apparently a defeat in the Senate will not have that immediate effect, or so says the CP.

Politicians at the lower levels of government have spoken out against Bill C-10, too, or at least the controversial bits of it, in recent weeks. Two weeks ago, the mayors of Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax — all of which have vital film and TV industries — told the Senate banking committee they were opposed to this aspect of the bill because it would seriously hurt the economies in those cities. (As a side note, the Toronto mayor’s appearance at the hearing apparently required the ceremonial opening of a new film studio complex in Toronto to be postponed.) And last week, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty spoke out against the bill too.

The Georgia Straight ran a comprehensive story on Bill C-10 last week asking if the Tories were using it to foment a “culture war” in Canada similar to the “culture wars” that have raged in the United States.

Meanwhile, Anthony Furey asks why artists across the country are up in arms over the alleged “censorship” of Bill C-10 but are saying nothing about the so-called “human rights” tribunals that are effectively threatening to censor writers like Maclean’s columnist Mark Steyn:

I urge the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists and all the other prominent persons and organizations that have officially denounced Bill C-10 to recognize that, regardless of Maclean’s’ political bent, the destruction of free speech is far more virulent in the kangaroo courts of our human rights tribunals than in our income tax laws. We have so much more to lose.

For what it’s worth, Steyn himself made a similar point in a column that ran almost three months ago.

And of course, at the heart of all this fuss, and riding the wave of controversy to whatever success it can get, is the movie Young People Fucking — which, despite the title, isn’t really any racier than a lot of R-rated American movies. The film opened across Canada last Friday and was #11 at the Canadian box office, grossing $103,544 — right behind What Happens in Vegas and just ahead of Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Two weeks before the film opened, CanWest News Service reported that Conservative MPs had avoided a special screening of the film that had been arranged for the very politicians who have been tossing this film’s title around as they debate Bill C-10:

The filmmakers behind the movie with the naughty title say it has a message the Conservative Party would approve — if they would only come and see it.

“Our generation makes an effort to separate love and sex,” says Martin Gero, the director of the romantic comedy Young People F—ing. “They’re all trying to do this thing, and they’re all failing miserably . . . we’re saying, ‘Listen, people our age. This is really hard to do without being emotionally involved.'”

In an interview with the Georgia Straight, Gero says the title was originally just a working title — but then it stuck:

“It was the first thing we came up with on the script, ’cause it spoke to the type of attack we wanted to put on the film: we wanted to be frank and honest and uncensored, basically,” he says in a downtown Vancouver hotel. “The title spoke to the type of language we wanted to use, the type of unblinking feel we wanted the film to have, and we never dreamed that it would be on the final print of the movie.…To their credit, our distributors kind of were like, ‘You know what? I think the title really fits if we can figure out how to get away with it.’ ”

The title has put marketers in awkward situations (it’s being called YPF in the U.K. and U.S.). But over tea at a Commercial Drive café, actor Sonja Bennett, who won a Vancouver Film Critics Circle award for her performance in the film, points out that Canadian films need whatever attention they can get. “I think that Martin and [cowriter] Aaron [Abrams] are really smart, and the producers are really smart, because most Canadian movies—this one included—have such small budgets. We don’t have the budgets to publicize the way American films do. You gotta pull out whatever you can, and if having a catchy title creates buzz around the film and gets people to go see it, that’s fantastic.”

It’s easy to misinterpret the tone of the title, which, in fact, is tongue-in-cheek. Abrams, who stars as a guy whose best female friend proposes fuck-buddy sex, explains that the actual movie thwarts expectations. “It’s not like we’re naive to what the title is. It’s a sensational, attention-grabbing thing.…People come in and either expect something hard-core and edgy or expect something very juvenile. But what I like about that turn is that they’re always surprised by what they get, because it’s neither of those things.”

Alas, of course, the title has also attracted the wrong kind of attention from politicians and activists who aren’t inclined to see it and have their expectations thwarted in the first place.

The Straight also notes that one of the top-grossing Canadian films of all time — i.e. Porky’s (1982) — was a sex comedy, and it gets this delightful quote from Bennett: “So often Canadian movies are dark, and it’s just really wonderful to be involved in a Canadian film that doesn’t have any incest or hockey in it.”

Finally, the mighty Roger Ebert has offered his own two bits on the brouhaha, first commenting on the pros and cons of the f-word’s increasing acceptability, and then reviewing the film itself. He gives it three stars.

Oh, and minor fact-check: The film is not “X-rated”, though Ebert says it is in one of his posts. In fact, the film currently has no American rating whatsoever, and in Canada, it is rated 18-A in most provinces but 16-A in Quebec.

JUN 19 UPDATE: Variety now has its own story on the Senate’s proposed amendments to Bill C-10.

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