Last fall Canadians around the country were asked to perform one simple task: film a snapshot of their lives over the course of 24 hours. The goal? To showcase what it means to be Canadian, and to eventually unroll a TV special highlighting exactly that in celebration of the country’s 150th birthday.
Canada in a Day (Sunday, June 25, 8 p.m. ET, CTV) is the culmination of that request. Filmmakers received more than a whopping 16,000 video submissions encompassing all 10 provinces, three territories, 22 countries and 18 languages — including Punjabi, Tagalog, and Indigenous languages Ojibway, Squamish, Mohawk, Mi’kmaq, Cree, and Inuktitut.
To say that piecing this film together was a monumental task would be an understatement, especially for director Trish Dolman and her team. A team of people combed through the thousands of submissions as they came in, flagging their favourites along the way. Then, when Dolman’s son was in bed that evening she’d sit through each and every favourite, weaving together a narrative.
“There was this immediate, emotional intimacy about the videos. Most people that filmed did so because they had something they wanted to share about their lives; some people made incredibly personal confessions throughout the course of the day,” Dolman tells us. “Some people came out about mental health issues they were struggling with. One woman and her adult son with Down syndrome made a video and talked about the challenges and learnings through that experience and how much they love each other.”
While the filmmakers obviously couldn’t use all of the footage they received (Dolman notes that she got an exceptional number of videos involving rainbows, birthdays and hockey), she says the only reason the final product is so successful is that so many people participated. Speaking of which, Dolman also reveals that some of those people who submitted videos were actually pretty recognizable.
“Anyone from Liona Boyd, who is a very well known classical guitarist, to the heritage minister Mélanie Joly submitted footage… Ben Mulroney submitted footage,” she says. “In the end we received far more footage than we could ever put in the film, so one of the choices we made was to stay as real as possible. Not that famous people aren’t real, but we wanted to try and stay with the everyday life, kind of an observation of everyday life in Canada. So in the end we didn’t include any famous people.”
That format has certainly proven successful in the past. Canada in a Day is inspired by another film called Life in a Day, which then spawned flicks like Italy in a Day, Spain in a Day and Britain in a Day. One important thing that sets this offering apart from the others, though, is just how much technology has evolved. The result was a lot of “very, very high quality footage” including time-lapses and even drones.
“It looked absolutely professional; I was blown away,” Dolman says. When you see the film you’ll see there’s gorgeous time-lapse and sunrise shots. It’s amazing.”
As for the content itself, Canadians submitted everything “from birth to death and all of the experiences in between.” Dolman reveals that her main takeaway is that Canadians are extremely proud and grateful for our country, but we also know that we need to roll up our sleeves and get to work on some of the larger issues — such as our relationship with indigenous people.
“It’s really quite a moving portrait of our country at this moment in time, there’s a huge range of emotion from what people sent in,” Dolman wraps. “I hope people come away with an emotional experience and an impression of the modern face of Canada, which is very rich and very varied in terms of diversity both culturally and geographically. Canada is an evolving identity but being Canadian is a dialogue. It’s a conversation, it’s an evolving identity, it’s not set and it’s constantly changing as we move forward.”