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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Canadian Film Review: Let's All Hate Toronto (2007)

* * *

Director: Albert Nerenberg, Rob Spence

Let’s All Hate Toronto is a tongue-in-cheek documentary which examines a peculiar Canadian pastime: Toronto bashing. However, what it reveals goes much deeper than the city itself to tell us something about the national community of Canada, something which I believe can be applied to the international community as well. Don’t let the silly tone fool you. This is a movie that really does have something to say.

I’ve probably seen Let’s All Hate Toronto about half a dozen times, mostly because I kept catching it on TV and coming in just after the beginning, thereby missing the explanation as to why “Mr. Toronto” has an eye patch. My final viewing revealed that there is, in fact, no explanation, but the film is enjoyable enough to have made it worth watching so many times anyway.

The film follows the self-appointed Mr. Toronto as he goes on a kind of goodwill tour across Canada to find out why Canadians, by and large, seem to have an inherent dislike for his city and to persuade them to reconsider their positions. The film examines many of the frequent criticisms lobbed at Toronto so that, if you’re a Canadian viewer, you’ll be hard pressed not to find something to relate to. What it basically comes down to, the film argues, is that the dislike Canadians feel for Toronto has a lot to do with the fact that it’s the most “American” city in Canada, and that it’s the “big dog” in terms of Canadian cities. However, commentators in the film point out that any large city in any nation is likely to be resented on some level by people in the smaller neighbouring cities just because it’s the bigger city. I can attest to this as someone from Vancouver Island – go pretty much anywhere on the island and asks someone’s opinion of Vancouver and you’ll find that it’s less than favourable, not for any real reason, just because that’s how it is. Bring up the idea of a bridge connecting Vancouver to the island and you’re more than likely to end up with a tirade about why that idea is total bull even though many people on the island find BC Ferries a frequent source of frustration and anger.

The point is, as a community you want to knock a bigger (and therefore “better”) community down a peg. This is true not only of communities that surround big cities, but of the national community towards a country’s biggest city, and the international community towards the nation seen as being the leader. Look at the criticisms aimed at Toronto, and you’ll see that they’re largely the same as those aimed at the United States in international discourse. Many of the issues examined in the film aren’t really specific to Toronto itself (with the exception of the criticism that the Leafs suck) and actually tend to tell us more about those who are doing the criticising than what is being criticized.

However, for all its focus on the negative – regardless of the light hearted way in which those negatives are related – the film ends on a distinctly positive and uplifting note. Mr. Toronto has been forced to face some hard truths about the city he loves so dearly, but he’s also exposed the generally ridiculous nature of Toronto bashing, and he’s rewarded with hugs from non-Torontonians. Hugs can’t heal all wounds, of course, but it’s a pretty good start as this good-natured, funny and surprisingly touching documentary shows.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good review. I loved Let's All Hate Toronto. It was full of surprises.