Fears grips Canadian town in "Black Eyed Dog"

There’s an old saying that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. But I think when it comes to some movie characterizations of Atl. Canada, I think that logic breaks down.

Consider the highly popular The Shipping News a lovely little tale of incest, poverty and misery in Newfoundland.

Or consider this.

It’s not exactly The Shipping News, but here are a few comments from the review of this movie about life in the Miramichi:

Black Eyed Dog,” a “Fargo”-style drama about residents of a remote Canadian town terrorized by a serial killer on the run, could find an appreciative audience beyond the art house circuit with its dark humor and mood of coiled anger.

Set in the remote Miramichi region of New Brunswick, one of Canada’s Maritime provinces, director Pierre Gang’s study of stifling rural society recently made its world premiere at the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland.

Miramichi – remote? From Switzerland, I guess but not many people I know would call it remote.

The fun continues:

…These include Betty’s violent ex-lover, Wayne (David Boutin), who refuses to accept his rejection, and his younger brother David (Brendan Fletcher), who is desperate to leave town but can’t work up enough nerve to go.

Gang and cinematographer Daniel Vincelette capture the claustrophobia of the small town and the mirage of opportunity beyond its borders. Boutin makes Wayne’s anger convincing, while Fletcher is sympathetic as his younger brother. Hyndman implies mystery and danger as the stranger, and Fred Ewanuick does well in the difficult role of a decent cop.

Salomaa carries the film persuasively as a survivor who tones down her beauty, coarsens her speech and toughens her attitude to deal with her bleak existence. As the possibility of salvation emerges from the harrowing situation she finds herself in, the choices she makes become entirely believable.

I guess the makers of this movie forgot to read their copy of The Prosperity Plan, huh?

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0 Responses to Fears grips Canadian town in "Black Eyed Dog"

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is typical of the ‘maritime movie genre’. ‘Salvation’ always comes from getting away, whether its in death (Margarets Museum) or going on to the sunny pastures of ‘urban life’ (New Watertown Girl).

    Then there’s ones like the infamous ‘Bay Boy’, whose concluding remarks are that “I never went back…” That’s the other point of the maritime movie (and novel) genre. Not only do you leave, but you never go back-not even as a tourist!

    Even the comedies are ‘black comedies’, like the novels of David Adams Richards it makes Torontonians happy to read about such ‘exotic pathetic locations’.

    Somebody really needs to do a ‘waking ned devine’ or ‘saving grace’ for New Brunswick, or anywhere in the maritimes for that matter.

  2. Cooker Boy says:

    NB has a huge image problem that must be resolved. It does stiffle economic development when FDI’s think of this region as drunk fishermen/coal miners/fish plant workers. This should be an election issue along with economic dev. NB needs to be rebranded so that every NBer is working towards a common goal.

  3. MonctonLandlord says:

    Some movies are such ‘genre’ but really, check-out this real story:

    A friend of mine went to a block party at White Frost Village (trailer park near Moncton) last weekend. He described it as being similar to scenes from Trailer Park Boys. The best part was a contest winner, already drunk, won a 40 ouncer, drinking straight from the bottle, he stumbles and his winnings got smashed on the road. His nickname must have been Julian. It doesn’t take a Torontonian to be happy to read about it. If NB is a rural province, then are all cities rural too? (I am waiting for my ‘Wish you were here’ postcard, it must be in one of Tourism NB Chalets). But wait, has anyone seen a Tourism NB Centre near Moncton? (no not the Moncton-funded GoMoncton booths, the real Provincially paid Tourism Centre, where is the closest one to White Frost Village?

    Maybe the new Provincial Capital Commission (announced today) can take care of this. Wait is Moncton the provincial capital yet? Oh, man, the capital is still in Fredericton, so let me get this straight, the new Prov Capital Commission, must be in response to Moncton and SJ overtaking Fredericton economically, therefore, if there is an election, another spending spree could be the hundreds of thousands of dollars to create jobs… tourism, civil servant jobs… These jobs could pay $50k to every biochemist graduating from UNB! This would make the headlines: Biochemists all offered jobs, here, in New Brunswick. Next day in the TJ: Masters Degree Biochemist heads Commission.

    Well, similarily to Third World Countries, many have a Politial Capital, as well as a city dubbed the Economic Capital. If we did the math and subtract transfer payments, would NB qualify for World Bank’s third world nation funding?

    Again, today’s head scratcher:
    “The role of the New Brunswick Provincial Capital Commission is to promote opportunities for New Brunswickers to feel pride in the province and the capital region.” DC, can’t believe this did not make todays blogs…

  4. scott says:

    Good point David. There is alot of misinformation out there.

    And cooker boy makes an excellent point. We need a rebranding. At the moment, we cut our own throats. A good example of this is when Moncton hosted the Memorial Cup last spring. As with many national events, the tournament was picked up by many Toronto area networks which are viewed by the entire nation. One such network was “the Score” in which broadcaster and color commentator Peter Loubardias went around the beautiful city of Moncton with this “french fisherman”, a comedian speaking broken english, explaining the culture and sites that the place had to offer. (does anybody know the name of that comedian?? I think he is actually famous in these parts?? sigghh.)

    Though I’m sure there were many that were amused by this guy, I on the contrary was appalled by this as I have lived in a few other provinces and realize that many view us, as cooker boy said, as “drunk fishermen/coal miners/fish plant workers” looking to get enough weeks to draw EI. When we have a chance to market ourselves on the national stage, even though I realize it is easy to capitulate or portray ourselves as down and out—or simply put “welfare bums” who are uneducated, we must make a concerted effort to market ourselves in a manner in which we want people to see us.

    IMO, that is as warm, modern, innovative, high tech friendly individuals who are forward thinking as well as serious and hardworking. Not as some pushover EI drunk. Sorry, if I offended those on EI, but this is not how our province should be portrayed.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I think the rebranding should be the idea that ALL fishermen get EI. Not even close. The idea that a fisherman is necessarily derogatory and ‘drunk’ is the image that needs to be cast off. Is the image people really want is ‘hey,we’re exactly the same as you people in Toronto’. Gee, that’ll be good for business and ‘image building’. Why not say ‘we’re the same as calgary’, that will make the exodus to Alberta that much easier.

    So the ‘new image’ of NB is the hard working plutocrat aligned with central ontario. That’s a great image, ‘hey Toronto, we work even harder than you’.

    In case people don’t realize it, the reason for the rural stereotypes is NOT to ridicule them, it is to characterize them. There’s a reason why “Wingfields Folly” sells out across Canada, and why “Corner Gas” and “Trailer Park Boys” are the only canadian shows anybody watches. The rest watch american TV-perhaps we should just dump the canadian image as well.

    But here’s a flash, book publishers are in Toronto. Movies get made from Toronto (whats the last ‘NB Film’ movie you’ve ever seen?’) It’s not New Brunswickers touting this ‘image’, its Torontonians, and I’ll bet it was a Toronto producer that picked out the Jimmy Flynn as well. It might even have been amusing.

    I’ll put ten bucks that most of the capital for that film came from Ontario, if not I’d love to see who bankrolled them. I have siblings in the entertainment business, and I can tell you that getting anything like that done in NB is like pulling teeth.

    The fact of the matter is that many simply can’t abide the fact that many a fisherman or resource worker is just plain happy. If they had control of their resource they’d be a lot better off, and some of those movies will be about burned out city rats who find out just how nice it is where people work to live, not live to work.

    That’s already happening in some industries, which is why you quickly see investment in those areas dry up. Contrary to popular opinion, most city folks don’t go to the thee atre or eat out every night. The only benefit they get from city livin is high taxes and lots of traffic and aggravation. Go drive the 401 sometime after 3 PM and you’ll see the chief advantage of the maritimes.

    There’s tons of great music, great comedy, great literature, but its not dark and depressing enough for Ontario audiences. That’s why David Adams Richards gets published, and why he lives in Toronto.

  6. Cooker Boy says:

    I wouldn’t neccessarily trade the fisherman for a suit. I would just “rebrand” the fisherman. Fishermen are some of the hardest working and honest people I know, but we need to do away with the Jimmy Flynn and promote the fisherman that conducts business in the global economy. I, like Scott, find it derogatory to see us portrayed as drunk lobster fishermen. Look at Alberta and it’s success in rebranding the Cowboy to be the Cowboy power broker.

    While I watch Trailer Park boys, do you realize it’s this regions only real pop cultural brand?

  7. David Campbell says:

    I think a rebrand is in order but as I recall I think that both McKenna and Lord hired PR experts to advise them on this. I always looked to the early days of Moncton’s renaissance when they spent oodles of money on marketing to themselves. I think the slogan was “Greater Moncton: We’re OK”. The idea was to raise the confidence of Monctonians first and then go out and market to the world (don’t forget Barbara Frum’s cristening of Moncton as the armpit of the Maritimes).

    Maybe we need a little of that right now. A strongly worded vision from the government that projects a future full of promise and a clear path to get there and then a pile of effort put into actually thinking New Brunswick can actually do it.

    I still remember an Assistant Deputy Minister with the former Department of Economic Development asking me “why would company x ever want to put a plant in New Brunswick”. Here was a guy who obstensibly was charged with growing the NB economy and he had no faith that it could be done.

    Physician, heal theyself may be timely right now in New Brunswick.

    However, I do admit a morbid curiosity to see this film. I knew of a kid in one of the ‘burbs’ of the Miramichi that was so depressed he got drunk and laid down in the road and a car ran over him. There are other similar stories from the ‘Chi’ but I have always thought they were amplified because it’s such a small community (i.e. these things happen in Moncton but it’s not such a big deal).

  8. Anonymous says:

    Miramichi isn’t exactly a ‘small town’ by any standards. People do indeed kill themselves in all variety of places. Any time you hear stories like that there is always a ‘message’ to it.

    If the best government can come up with “Moncton-we’re OK” there’s definitely a problem. That’s just one slight step up from ‘”Moncton-we’re an armpit”. But all these things are relative, if you have money and a decent house there are plenty of places in Moncton that are just as nice as any place in the country. I’m always a little suspicious when economics is bantered along ‘city wide’ lines. It’s almost as if those pushing for it simply don’t like bad statistics to ruin their day.

    Ultimately, if society isn’t attempting to make life better for every single person then there is really no point to it. People aren’t numbers, and they aren’t polls or percentages.

    That image makeover can easily start with that. To return to Maine or Vermont, or Switzerland, these people don’t turn to government to wait for leadership and to do something. They organize town meetings and get people together and decide how to do it. Want to start an image makeover? Find a kid who can draw and turn out a comic book. Get a bunch of friends together and do an audio series on the web. There are millions of options, call up those ‘fat kats’ and ask how you can help find investors for cartoons .

    The reality could well be ‘why would anybody invest here’. If we are arguing against the government to take their heads out of the sand, perhaps we should do so ourselves.

  9. scott says:

    Anon 10:46

    You said:

    To return to Maine or Vermont, or Switzerland, these people don’t turn to government to wait for leadership and to do something. They organize town meetings and get people together and decide how to do it.

    I truely don’t think that creating more community based “special interest” groups is the answer. That’s just creating more problems within a problem. We just can’t afford to have more red tape and non-governmental bureaucracy that is unaccountable to know one. Many times the executives of these organizations can be more autocratic than some of the worst democratically produced dictators. Usually because they were never interested in listening to anyone but themselves in the first place.
    (i.e. your ” these people don’t turn to government to wait for leadership and to do something” comment) Not that they have evil intentions, I personally don’t believe this to be the proper path to democratic renewal.

    I think we have to find a way to make the existing system work. (i.e. more citizen initiative referenda, party’s that opt to use the one member one vote system instead of appointing delegates, PR, single transferable vote in multi-member ridings (STV), or a mix of both called multi-member proportional system (MMP). It’s obvious that government, the way it is structured right now, does not represent, nor does it answer to the public. If you don’t believe me, just wait until election night when the NDP have no representation in the legs and many of their voters are disinfranchised by the first past the post(FPTP) system. Don’t get me wrong, I am far from being a socialist, but I do believe in a democracy that is truely representative of all members of society. There is no way that the NB legs will be fully functional until all citizens are fully represented. As well, how are they [NDP]ever going to raise money and up their profile under such an archaic system. You tell me???

  10. Anonymous says:

    Wow, who would have thought I’d like a post from Scott so much! Not so different after all. In fact, we’re talking about much the same thing.

    First, that’s exactly what they do in Maine, Vermont, to an extent NH, and even more in Switzerland. To ‘resolve things’ as a community you use the citizens initiative process. However, not everybody is into politics, which means those working towards it will be derided as that ‘special interest group’.

    In a citizen initiative you obviously need somebody to form the petition. So in Maine you saw a group of environmentalists oppose clear cutting by starting a petition. That group is a ‘special interest group’, just as, no doubt, in New Brunswick it would be the conservation council.

    That’s not important, what’s important is that if it gains the signatures, then it becomes a referendum. Then, quite obviously, you hear from TWO special interest groups, those cutting, those who want it to stop. Then the people decide. There is no autocracy there, nobody is talking about a new level of government.

    In that case, clear cutting was approved. Take a look at Bennington Vermont, this year they had a debate on whether to allow a Wal mart or not. Once again two very different ‘special interest groups’ campaigned. Here’s where its nice to have an objective government, because most governments have passed spending regulations in their referenda laws. That’s because, obviously, somebody with huge amounts of money can take over all advertising.

    It was interesting that in New Brunswicks one and only referendum, the spending laws were not put in place. There was a Saint John ad agency that until last year used to tout on their homepage that they were responsible for turning a 60-40 opposition to VLT’s into a victory for keeping them.

    I’ll definitely jump on board ALL of those political issues mentioned above. Canada now has the LEAST representative government in the democratic world. In any other country the NDP would hold at least 6 seats here.

    The question is, how do you get those things? If you think government is going to bring them in you’re crazy, they’ve had decades to do that.

    In fact, Lord said that he is in favour of proportional representation. Well, first, a politician HAS to say that because they know there is a class of people who know just how f&^^ed up the system is.

    However, notice that he wants to design his own. Notice also that if he really wanted it, he could just enact it. No referendum is required. In fact, during the fifties New Brunswick HAD proportional representation, just like many places in the country. It was found to be just too damn representative, so they switched to the Single Member Plurality system-its far easier to get control.

    So how do you get that? How do you get Proportional Representation? Notice that that is one issue that hasn’t even been brought up yet. Mostly because, in case people missed it, Irving doesn’t want it. The last thing they want is PR, its far too easy to control government as it is. Who wants 6 or more NDP saying its a waste of money to cut stumpage fees by 50%, or oppose an LNG tax deal? I guarantee that you’d find even more one sided arguments as the referendum grew near.

    And Irving controls elections, make no doubt about it. Radio and television are transitory, the newspaper is right there, anytime. It can be shared, and its (mostly) local. That’s why politicians can’t even talk about this stuff much.

    They can mention it, and say that ‘we should do something sometime’. Or they can even talk about a referendum now that governments have increasingly learned how to control them. You do like Lord did, and have it during municipal elections when hardly anybody shows up, and then state that if a certain number of people don’t vote, then you won’t count it.

    Or you do like BC and make it unbelievably complicated and set the approval level higher (60% and it got 58). Now BC has the dubious distinction of having a failed referendum vote that got more approval than their sitting Premier.

    Or you do like PEI, and don’t talk about it, have it as a separate election, then close the voting booths that are closest to most people. Not to mention the sillines s of having it in a province where the NDP are non existent (far moreso than NB).

    However, you get that by organizing. By getting people together, and that, by necessity, is a ‘special interest group’. Just because political parties are autocratic DOESN”T mean forms of organization are autocratic. Go to those places in the states and Switzerland and ask them how ‘autocratic’ their governments are. You’ll get a far different answer than here I guarantee you (at least at the state level).

    At the community level its the same. Getting things accomplished in any political system in Canada is like pulling teeth. In the states (at the community level) you get people together, you get it voted on. In Canada, politicians and bureaucrats get involved and everything takes years to get resolved.

    So the question is, how do you get that? It doesn’t come as a gift by government. In 1984 Jean Chretien said that within months of office he’d switch to proportional representation, that was 20 years ago and almost ten that he could have done that.

    That’s a long post I know, but this is my area of (somewhat) expertise. I had always written Scott off as one of those autocrats who simply doesn’t want people involved in their government. Perhaps thats true, but citizens initiative involves people, and those ‘special interest groups’. If people don’t think ONE special interest group has been calling the shots in NB for a long time, they haven’t look at the legislation very hard.

    There’s a reason that americans tout their country so much, and if you met a Swiss you’d find them even more smug. That’s because they have governments that are representative. That doesn’t mean they are heaven, the states have huge problems, in good measure because of a federal government where none of those democratic tools exist.

    But go take a look at Swiss decision making sometime. There was a hilarious british article (another country slow on the PR boat, but still getting there faster than us), where they made fun of the fact that the swiss ‘had to’ vote on nine different issues. Imagine! Having to learn about nine issues that affect you and your country and having to vote on it! What sacrilege, what silliness!

    In Canada we are well acquanted with that, in fact the english media (owned either by totalitarian corporations or in one case a totalitarian union) even came out with a slogan “neverendum referendum”. Imagine that, its actually a BAD thing to vote! Of course it doesn’t help that the referendum is on breaking up the country, but perhaps it wouldn’t be so maligned if Canada actually utilized them more than three times in over a hundred years.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Just as a quick aside, since this issue rarely comes up here. We CAN make government do all these things by intense lobbying. Thats particularly true during elections. Lord should be called on the fact that he wants to change the recommendation of his own committee (after saying they had complete power over electoral boundaries), as well as not having the referendum during a provincial election.

    And Graham should be forced into making a concrete proposal on his position. If its going to be an election issue, then WE have to make it one.

    In the states it was largely the work of socialists, in fact socialist media owners (so why not bloggers?) who got citizens initiatives in many of the states that now have them. It’s ironic that in the states most of those who most highly and often tout the virtues of democracy, also strongly denounce the USE of democracy-namely the vote.

    In Canada we are hundred years behind them, 500 years behind Switzerland. Even proportional representation is a step up, and thats better than back.

    Just to tout it up, how much of a boost would it be to be the first province in Canada to have proportional representation? Now there’s an ad campaign for all across North America if I ever saw one. Of course we don’t know yet whether we’ll even have that referendum, unless we work at it.