Room, Brooklyn, and Canadian Co-Productions

With the recent announcement of the 2017 Golden Globes nominations, I was firmly reminded that we are in the midst of the awards season, ever building towards the climactic Academy Awards. Before I began watching (or rewatching) the film’s being recognised this awards season, I figured I would first try to catch up on the ones I missed from last year.

Top of this list was Lenny Abrahamson’s Room, a co-production between Canada, England, and my home country of Ireland. I had no control over my loftily high expectations, given the sheer praise offered up by critics, its numerous awards and nominations, and my familiarity with a number of Abrahamson’s other impressive works.

The film managed to deliver on most accounts, and stands as one of the most emotionally resonant films I have seen this decade. As I watched it, I could sense that it is an illustration of what can be achieved when all those involved in a film’s making work as a creatively cohesive unit.

This led to me considering the next film on that list, John Crowley’s Brooklyn, before I had even watched it (which is something I still need to do!). What had occupied my mind was that it is yet another Canadian international co-production that received more or less as much recognition as Room by audiences, critics, and awards committees alike.

This can be no coincidence, and I would even contest that it is an endorsement for the Canadian film industry’s continued pursuit of international co-productions, which can clearly generate artistically rich works.

In fact, both Room and Brooklyn were shot in Canada, even though both films are based either entirely, or partially, in the United States. This is because, of course, Canada can make for a good double of the United States, but ultimately it all comes down to money. The benefits for filmmakers, particularly independent ones like Abrahamson, range from Canada having looser labour laws for unionized workers, to the Film or Video Production Services Tax Credit, which offers tax incentives to foreign or domestic filmmakers who employ Canadian workers.

With the critical and commercial success of Room and Brooklyn, I believe co-productions are now more important than ever in Canada, as it can be an all-too-enticing draw for many talented international filmmakers like Abrahamson and Crowley. More importantly, this could breathe new life into the Canadian film industry, allowing it to better compete with the stricter, pricier, and overbearingly dominant American film industry.

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