Making Canada proud 

Documentary examines pot legalization, gay marriage

What: Escape to Canada

When: Saturday, Dec. 3, 7 p.m.

Where: Village 8 Cinemas

Tickets: $9.30

Director Albert Nerenberg can pinpoint the date Canada and the U.S. went in different directions: June 10, 2003.

That’s when Canada started down a road as a champion of human rights and freedoms, and took a giant step out of the stereotypical image of a land of Mounties and beavers.

In one afternoon, Ontario courts legally recognized same-sex marriages and, within an hour, the first same-sex marriage was held. Meanwhile in another courtroom the prohibition of marijuana was removed and Marc Emery’s cross-Canada pro-cannabis campaign began – including smoking a bong in front of the Toronto Police Station.

Nerenberg tackles the journey of these two issues from celebration to chaos in his documentary Escape to Canada , screening Saturday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. at Village 8 Cinemas as part of the Whistler Film Festival.

Don’t expect an objective view of the subject: Nerenberg isn’t afraid to toot Canada’s horn.

"I decided to take the side of Canada (believing Canada is on the side of same-sex marriages and marijuana)," said Nerenberg, the mastermind behind the indie-hit documentary Stupidity.

"What happens is that audiences cheer for Canada all the way through this movie. One critique best summed it up, ‘You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll love your country.’ That is how I felt making this film, realizing that Canada stands for something especially on personal freedom issues."

He said summer liberations soon turned to a winter of discontent as Ontario rescinded legalization of pot and arrests were made, and the U.S. elections turned the legalization of same-sex marriages into a campaign circus, which in turn spurred an anti-gay-marriage campaign from Canada’s Conservative Party.

"It brought Bush to power and then people were asking, ‘What can (the issue) do for me?’ and then (Conservative Party leader) Stephen Harper jumped on the bandwagon," Nerenberg said.

And this is where Whistler comes in.

Nerenberg said many gay and lesbian Americans made their way northward to legalize their union in Canada, some coming to Whistler.

The film captures one American couple who were married at the top of Whistler Mountain amidst a "snow storm" and another couple married at the River of Golden Dreams.

"Everyone cries: it was so emotional," Nerenberg said of the mountaintop wedding. "It really brings it home. I think that is one reason why the film was so well received in the States. They realize, ‘Why do our kids have to go all the way to Canada and get married in a snow storm to be together?’ The imagery is very strong."

Tickets for the provocative documentary, which also addresses the arrival of AWOL U.S. soldiers in Canada and the Iraq war, are $9.30. Check out other films at www.whistlerfilmfestival.com.

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