April 21, 2017
DGC DIRECTOR DEEPA MEHTA REFLECTS ON CANADA DURING THE PRODUCTION OF WATER
In honour of National Canadian Film Day and Canada’s 150th birthday, we asked DGC Members to describe Canada during the time they were making their iconic Canadian films. We were looking for personal stories and reflections on the history of Canada that would highlight the diversity of voices of those working in Canadian film.
Here, Director Deepa Mehta shares her experience creating the iconic Canadian film Water while expressing that there is still work to be done if we are to truly represent and support the diversity of filmmakers in Canada. The DGC shares Deepa Mehta’s vision of a more diverse and inclusive film industry.
“Telefilm support to help remount the beleaguered production of Water (which was unceremoniously shut down in the year 2000 in India by religious fundamentalists) was unprecedented. In addition to its practical significance; as an Indo/Canadian filmmaker it was emotionally reassuring, and signified to me a cultural first step by the Government of Canada in embracing diversity not simply as a concept but in real terms. Sheila Copps was our Heritage Minister. A strong, enlightened woman whose cultural vision of Canada was exciting,anticipatory and ground breaking.
Telefilm Canada became an important funding partner in the financing of Water. This was an anomaly as the primary language of the film was Hindi. Government policy is to fund films only if they are in English, French or an Indigenous language. To comply with this policy, we shot the film in both English and Hindi. When the film was selected to open the Toronto International Film Festival it was shown in Hindi with English subtitles and this was the version, which was selected to represent Canada at the Academy Awards, and ultimately secured a nomination for best foreign language film. A real breakthrough on all fronts. Sadly ten years later we are still struggling to spearhead a policy change regarding film funding and language that correctly represents the country of Canada and the diversity we have incorporated as an essential part of our culture. The only thing, as far as I am concerned, that's important is that the filmmakers should be Canadian NOT the language in which they wish to tell their stories.”