TIFF is celebrating the centenary of the birth of Norman McLaren, a Canadian animator and director, by airing a number of his films. Oddly enough, they’re also showing a 3D retouched version of a film by one of his frequent collaborators, Evelyn Lambart—Canada’s first female animator whose career seems to be permanently tied to McLaren.
O Canada is an animated adaptation of the Canadian national anthem, sprawling itself across Lambart’s trademark paper cut-outs. Her then-groundbreaking use of stereoscopic filmmaking is barely discernable in 3D and the 1951 short looks like a pop-up book of the nation—or at least the nation how it might have been in an idyllic 1950s era. Even for a Canadian as unusually patriotic as myself, Lambart’s representation of the country as a series of pastures and freshly painted farmhouses felt disingenuous to the present day, and not to mention saccharine for any time.
Sure, Canadians aren’t known for being too vocal about their national pride (except when it comes to hockey or Canada Day parties) and the case could be made that we simply feel uncomfortable watching our anthem boldly drape itself over the finest parts of the country. But since the film feels only tenuously related to McLaren, its even more dubious relation to the current state of Canada only makes the effort feel more disconnected from what it may have once been trying to say. Then again, the focus on Lambart’s legacy tends towards her technique with the exception of a few didactic stories, so maybe O Canada should be looked at through her stereoscopic lens instead of a jaded modern one.
O Canada premieres as part of Short Cuts Programme 1 on Friday, Sept. 5 at 9:15 p.m. (TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 2). It also shows Sunday, Sept. 7 at 9 a.m. (TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 4 – Paul & Leah Atkinson Family Cinema).