Maple Flavour doc debuts at all-Canadian fest

Talking to insiders and the public for his Maple Flavour Films, Michael Sparaga says he was surprised 'how much people want to like Canadian movies'

Michael Sparaga’s new film started out as a DVD extra for his last one. But the idea — a candid look at the state of Canada’s English-language film industry — took off and, this week, Maple Flavour Films will premiere at the Canadian Filmmakers Festival.

Sparaga shot the documentary while shopping his superhero comedy, Sidekick, cross-country in 2006.

‘We took it to the streets. We asked people about the Canadian film industry,’ he says. ‘We realized there was a really good story here.’

Funny, honest and uplifting, the doc weaves interviews with the public and film industry people. Critic Richard Crouse and producer Anna Stratton make appearances, discussing what is, or isn’t, happening with English films.

‘What surprised me most is how much people want to like Canadian movies. I didn’t think they cared,’ says Sparaga. ‘They do. We have an audience that’s truly receptive to good Canadian movies.’

Written and directed by Sparaga, Maple Flavour Films was produced by his Toronto-based Victory Man Productions. Sparaga pegs the budget at $50,000, but notes the effort was piggybacked on Sidekick‘s budget, as much of its footage was shot on Sidekick‘s cross-country tour.

‘Blake Van de Graaf, the director of Sidekick, was a cinematographer on the road,’ for Maple, he says. Composer Matt Judge ‘also did camera work.’

Maple is Sparaga’s second showing at the Canadian Filmmakers Festival, which exclusively screens domestic efforts, working to advance Canadian filmmaking talent. Sidekick opened the festival two years ago, and was chosen People’s Pick For Best Flick. This year’s festival runs Tuesday through Saturday in Toronto, screening more than 30 titles.

The fest opens with the oddball comedy Hank and Mike, director Matthiew Klinck’s story of two blue-collar Easter bunnies. Other titles include The Last Hit Man, starring Joe Mantegna, the outdoors-y thriller Portage and the comedy Confessions of a Porn Addict, starring Spencer Rice of Kenny Vs. Spenny.

A panel discussion on the film industry will follow the Maple Flavour screening, moderated by Crouse with panelists including Playback publisher Peter Vamos, Cineplex exec Rob Cousins and Sparaga.

‘The truth is, I’m not saying anything new with the panelists and experts,’ Sparaga says. ‘What makes [the film] accessible is that I’ve got people on the street coast-to-coast basically saying [the system] is not working,’ he says.

And that he adds is what Maple Flavour Films is all about — getting people talking.

‘I’d rather have 20 million Canadians saying bad things about Canadian cinema, because at least they’re talking about it.’