Who Are We?

I will admit, I am a sporadic ‘tweeter’, but I do like to regularly peruse my Twitter feed. Sometimes you never know what you will find.

A few months ago, when I was just getting into my research project, I was on the lookout for any kind of film related to migration and identity.

One day I was scrolling through Twitter and saw a link posted by the National Film Board of Canada titled: “The Canadian identity conundrum get a brand new spin in this funny short.”

screen-shot-2016-02-26-at-3-51-48-pm

@thenfb. Screenshot of NFB tweet, taken on 26 February 2016.

I thought this sounded interesting, so I followed the link to a short animated film entitled, “Who Are We?” by Zlatko Grgić (1974).

(You can also watch it here)

The cartoon itself is only ten minutes, and features some bright and quirky animation. Using song and dance, it takes us through various historical and cultural markers that make up ‘who we are’ as Canadians.

Although I appreciated that the film attempted to explore the question of “Who Are We?” rather than simply answer it, I was still left a little disappointed.

“Who are we? Who really gives a damn. You are you, and you are you, and that is what we am.” (“Who Are We?” 8:30)

In its attempt to visualize the Canadian identity conundrum, I think it misses the true essence of that conundrum through its largely Eurocentric point of view.

Representations of indigenous history is largely skirted over, and relies heavily on humour and stereotypes.

Depictions of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or “Mounties,” often considered symbols of Canada, are entirely white and male. Meanwhile, any ancestral history is limited to such European countries as Scotland, Spain, and France.

“Our culture’s still too young to gel, so why not steal a few” (“Who Are We?” 6:05)

One might wish to defend the film as largely ‘innocent’ on account of its 1974 release date. And moreover, as a 10 minute cartoon I hardly expect it to delve deep into the difficult political histories that make up the Canadian conundrum. However, the fact that it was advertised in 2016 as a “brand new spin” on Canadian identity makes me wonder if such a narrow perception of a ‘multicultural’ Canadian identity is still commonplace.

What do our representations of Canada say about us? What do our reactions to those representations say, in turn? Is there ever an answer to the question: “Who are we?” Or should we be asking instead, “Who is included/excluded in representations of national identity?” … “Who is ‘we‘?”

 

Sources:

@thenfb. “The Canadian identity conundrum get a brand new spin in this funny short.” Twitter, 25 February 2016, 4:30 a.m., https://twitter.com/thenfb/status/702946179231842304.

Weldon, Carolyn. “Who Are We? | Explore Your Canadian Identity with This Hilarious Short Cartoon.” NFB/blog. 16 February 2016, http://blog.nfb.ca/blog/2016/02/16/who-are-we-zlatko-grgic/#comments. Accessed 26 February 2016.

Who Are We? Directed by Zlatko Grgić, National Film Board of Canada, 1974, https://www.nfb.ca/film/who_are_we/. Accessed 26 February 2016.

 

© Lesley Butler (lvb717 @ mun.ca), 2016.

 

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