Anthology Film Archives


February 24 – March 8

Begun in the late 1960s as a means to foster and develop a distinctive Canadian national cinema, the state-run Canadian Film Development Corporation (CFDC) came under fire from politicians and cultural commentators when many of those film projects it funded turned out to be softcore comedies and graphic horror films such as David Cronenberg’s SHIVERS. That film was infamously lambasted by a prominent journalist who was so offended by what he’d seen, he told his readers, “You should know how bad this film is. After all, you paid for it.”

The fallout from the CFDC’s funding of these genre films, which were seen as little more than American knock-offs being subsidized by unsuspecting Canadian taxpayers, led to the Canadian government instituting the Capitol Cost Allowance (CCA) in 1974. It was the CCA that gave the name to the subsequent boom in Canadian productions – Canadian “tax shelter” movies – which peaked in the late 70s and early 80s. The CCA was meant to remove the burden of funding from the taxpayer and entice private investment from wealthy individuals; said enticement came in the form of an unheard-of 100% tax deferment for productions that met a minimum set of requirements to be deemed sufficiently “Canadian.” While these tax shelter films included prestige titles such as ATLANTIC CITY, these were far outnumbered by the aforementioned genre and exploitation films – later known as “Canuxploitation” – such as the mega-hit sex comedy PORKY’S, as well as those of the aforementioned David Cronenberg, whose films were still years away from being recognized as reputable works by academics and the mainstream media.

Eventually the market was glutted by mediocre and unambitious films, with questionable Canadian bonafides, that were made on the cheap in order to turn an easy profit. Many of these films flopped, scaring away investors, while the CCA subsidy was cut in half to 50%, further deterring private financing. By 1982 or 83, the tax shelter boom was over. This series offers a small but varied sampling of the films that came out of this unique and ultimately brief period in Canadian cinema history.

Curated by Jonathan Hertzberg, who also wrote the introduction and all film descriptions (with the exception of TAKING SHELTER).

Special thanks to Jonathan Culp, and to Brian Belovarac (Janus); Chris Chouinard (Park Circus); Jack Durwood (Paramount); Johan Ericsson (Swedish Film Institute); Tina Harvey & Paul Gordon (Library and Archives Canada); Dave Jennings & Richard Ashton (Sony Pictures); Matt Jones (North Carolina School of the Arts); and Todd Wiener & Steven Hill (UCLA).

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