Telefilm restoration project to bring influential Canadian films into digital era


TORONTO — Telefilm and several of Canada’s other leading film organizations are working together on a new project that will dust off homegrown cinematic gems for the digital generation.

More than 10 Canadian films, including fictional English- and French-language narratives, documentaries and shorts, are part of a restoration effort that will see each digitized to a high-definition industry standard that’s suitable for theatrical screenings and ready for streaming platforms.

Telefilm executive Francesca Accinelli says the initiative came about in late 2020 after she spoke with Canadian filmmakers about how many of the country’s less-commercial, but deeply influential, films were “starting to disappear” in the digital era.

Many older Canadian films have never received a proper digital transfer, leaving them to languish in old video cassette transfers from the 1980s and 1990s, or in a “standard definition” shape that falls below the expectations of streaming giants such as Netflix.

Accinelli says in some cases, films that once thrived on the festival circuit only aired on television decades ago.

The partnership with Hot Docs, the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television, the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma and the Toronto International Film Festival, gave each institution the authority to select titles they felt should be restored.

Accinelli says many of them showcase underrepresented voices, including women and Indigenous filmmakers and other minority groups.

Hot Docs officials chose three documentaries by filmmakers Holly Dale and Janis Cole: “P4W: Prison for Women,” a 1981 film profiling female inmates at a Kingston, Ont., penitentiary; “Hookers on Davie,” about Vancouver’s sex work industry and released in 1984; and “Calling the Shots,” a 1988 time capsule examining women’s roles in the film industry.

The Festival du Nouveau Cinéma chose “The Left-Hand Side of the Fridge (La moitié gauche du frigo),” a pseudo-documentary released in 2000 about an unemployed Quebecois engineer who agrees to be the subject of his friend’s film project, and “West of Pluto (À l’ouest de Pluton),” a 2008 drama following 12 Quebec high schoolers coming of age.

Additional films in the restoration project will be announced in the future.

Telefilm says each title will have a theatrical run and eventually be made available to broadcasters and streaming outlets.

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David Friend, The Canadian Press