TORONTO – It’s like something out of a “Kids in the Hall” skit: the staid and greying men and women of the Senate, popcorn and Twizzlers in hand, taking in a film with a title that would prompt most people’s grandparents to bolt from the theatre in horror.
But it’s a scene that could soon become a reality. Some senators have been in touch with the producers of the Canadian relationship comedy “Young People F**king,” arriving in theatres in mid-June, and have asked to see the film as they consider the Tory government’s controversial Bill C-10.
The bill would allow the Heritage Ministry to withhold federal tax credits to Canadian film and television projects it deems offensive, a notion that has prompted accusations of censorship by the country’s outraged arts community.
“We’ve now had senators contact us directly – their offices have been getting in touch with us trying to get more information about the film and about the financing of it,” Steve Hoban, whose Toronto-based Copperheart Entertainment made the film, said Wednesday.
“They’re all trying to educate themselves, and they have asked to see the movie. We are talking about setting up a screening for them.”
Canada’s film and television producers go in front of the Senate banking committee on Thursday to ask them for an amendment to Bill C-10. Actress/director Sarah Polley and actress Wendy Crewson are holding a news conference in Ottawa to complain about the proposed legislation.
“Young People F**king” has been a lightning rod in the C-10 debate, with right-wing organizations like the Canada Family Action Coalition arguing that it should never have received a dime of government money. The tax credits granted to the film amounted to about five per cent of its overall budget, Hoban says.
The title of the movie certainly hasn’t helped it win any fans among social conservatives, director Martin Gero acknowledged, but he’s unapologetic.
“The title is all anybody knows of the film,” he said. “If it was called ‘Bedtime Stories,’ no one would care. But I don’t regret the title – it’s one of those words that has become greatly desensitized, and it’s all over television, and newspapers print it freely if it’s in context; it’s just not the word it used to be.”
But Hoban says it isn’t just the title that has right-wingers up in arms, but also the content.
“Certainly the title has put some fuel in the fire, no question, but it’s the content too – it’s all about sex. The film really tracks the act of having sex, from beginning to end,” he said.
“But I wouldn’t want people to think it’s a harsher film than it is – it isn’t pornography. If Woody Allen was 25 years old today, this is the kind of movie he’d be making.”
The entire C-10 debate is casting a pall over the Canadian film and television industry, which struggles to compete against the cultural behemoth to the south.
Adding to the anger is the fact that under C-10, the Heritage Ministry wouldn’t withhold the tax credit to American films shooting in Canada, regardless of the content.
“If you’re going to have a double standard, at least have a double standard that gives the Canadian industry a leg up,” Gero said. “Why would you limit the industry you should be supporting while helping the industry that doesn’t need it? Everyone wants to make it about censorship, but really, it’s just terrible business, ill-conceived from start to finish.”
Hoban says his next movie, “Splice,” starring Polley and Adrien Brody, has a $26-million budget, most of it from Europe. The film is currently in post-production.
“This is a movie that might not have happened because it has some sexual content that might have been objectionable to certain people as well,” he said.
“And we’re spending $22 million of the $26 million here in Canada, shooting it in Toronto and hiring a lot of Torontonians – that’s a lot of money that wouldn’t have been spent here if we hadn’t received the tax credit, and we’re not the only ones.”
Both Hoban and Gero chuckle at the irony of all the publicity their film is getting thanks to a small group of conservatives who took offence to the title.
“In a backwards way, it’s all been very good for this film,” Gero said.
“It’s always funny to me when people draw attention in a negative way to these sorts of things. At the end of the day, you’re only helping. For the most part, you feel like you’re speaking for the moral majority, and a lot of times it turns out that’s just not the case, and all you’re doing is giving us publicity.”