North of Nowhere?: The Signifigance of Canadian Cultural Identity in Genre Films Produced During the "Tax Shelter Years"

Essay by superclown October 2004

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North of Nowhere?:

Cultural Identity in Genre Films Produced During the "Tax Shelter Years"

More than twenty years after its original release, a puerile high school sex comedy remains the highest grossing Canadian film of all time. If you ask many of those who made it such a financial success, they probably had no idea that was a Canadian film. In "Porky's" none of the characters are Canadian, in fact, the film is set in Florida, and its subject matter is a great departure from that of traditional Canadian filmmaking. Within any other era of Canadian film this movie would have been an enigma, but for a brief period during the late 1970s and early 1980s, the creation of films which mimicked commercial American cinema became financially feasible. This sudden influx of "genre" films, often featuring prominent American actors, was spurned by the Canadian government's decision to encourage the production of Canadian motion pictures, which actually made a profit.

This period in Canadian cinema, is often described as "The Tax Shelter" era, because producers seeking to make a movie in Canada, did not have to pay a single cent of tax. During this time, filmmaking output was its peak in Canada, with their domestic industry reaching a number equivalent to 50% of Hollywood production in 19791.

Many dismiss this era as a low point in the history of Canadian cinema, with their belief that the artistic value of Canadian films reached its nadir. However it should not be forgotten that never before, and not since has there been a period of Canadian Filmmaking with such widespread appeal. Many "classics" were born out of the tax shelter system. Films such as "Meatballs", "Porky's", and "The Christmas Story" are all works which popularity has remained strong, decades after their original release, not...