Rick Eglinton/torstar News service


High school students watch the French-Canadian film Les Boys during the REEL Canada film festival. The project helps students gain more knowledge of Canadian films.


Toronto high school students have started packing popcorn in their lunches as REEL Canada begins to screen films in their classrooms all this month and next.

“REEL Canada is a traveling film festival that goes from high school to high school,” said Jack Blum, REEL Canada’s executive director.

The aim of the project is to make students more aware of Canadian films and the Canadian film industry.

Following a successful pilot project in October 2005, the project has continued to gain success. The way it works is six movies, chosen by the students from Reel Canada's catalogue of 35, are screened at nine participating schools. Three movies are played simultaneously in the morning and three in the afternoon, with presentations in between.

Guests include Deepa Mehta, director of the Oscar-nominated film Water; Atom Egoyan, director of The Sweet Hereafter; and Canadian actor and director Paul Gross. All of whom can help students better understand what the film industry is really like.

Some of the films chosen by students include Men With Brooms, The Red Violin, Shake Hands With The Devil and C.R.A.Z.Y.

Program director Sharon Corder was surprised to see some of the students' choices. She especially didn't expect such a strong interest for Quebec productions like C.R.A.Z.Y. and The Rocket.

Corder is astounded at how little students know and hear about Canadian films. “We did a lot of research before we did (the festival) and it became very clear that most students in Canada don't get a chance to hear about these films.” Corder said.

So when REEL Canada rolls into a school, it's not just to entertain the crowds, it's also to educate.

For Blum, it is also about stealing the limelight away from Hollywood, if only for a moment.

“In this time where everyone is sort of overwhelmed by Hollywood and what is called foreign-based cultural products, we're trying to let them know that Canadians make films that they will like.”

For more information about the program visit www.reelcanada.com.