[VFF’15] “Gone South” to Look at the Rise of Hollywood, A Review

By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

GoneSouth-Poster-11x16.75-300dpi-RGB-672x10246:00pm Feb 6
The Vic Theatre

Special Guest in Attendance: Director Ian Ferguson

The documentary Gone South: How Canada Invented Hollywood is a very informative and tongue in cheek look at a different kind of invasion that’s still infiltrating the entertainment industry today. It’s only fitting that this movie is part of the opening night of movies to start the 2015 Victoria Film Festival. This movie is part of the Canadian Wave program.

Film historians will enjoy the retrospective that begins by describing how Hollywood began. For example, Jack Warner (born in London, Toronto) formed Warner Bros and with his brothers Sam, Albert and Henry (all born in Poland). Jack was the studio head.

Producer Mack Sennett discovered Charlie Chaplin and both figures are comedic legends. To see how either of their contributions from the early silent film era influenced the future can be felt throughout this movie. With humour driving a very loose plot about musician Tracy Thomas pretending to be a newcomer to the Los Angeles scene, she gets to meet fellow Canadians who have acclimated to the hustle and bustle center of North American entertainment. They talk about their own early experiences and others help her become part of the scene.

Perhaps the most engaging discourse is with the multi-talented Harland Williams. For Howie Mandel, what he revealed is sad in how he had to struggle just to make it to the top. Of course, it was most likely said humourously. The impressive line-up of celebrities — Alex Trebek, Shannon Tweed, Tommy Chong, Neve Campbell and Monty Hall — talk about how the entertainment industry developed in Los Angeles moreso than in how they themselves became part of the scene. With Hollywood originally a municipality of this city back in 1903 and fully incorporated seven years later, just how Canadians helped build this city is not just with rock and roll.

Alex Trebek and Tracy Thomas
Alex Trebek and Tracy Thomas

Music Producer David Foster explains why he loves this city. It’s an entertainment mecca for all of North America. He still affectionately remembers home — Victoria, BC to be exact — and along with another home-grown actor/comedian, Calum Worthy (Austin & Ally), these are not the only two who speak warmly about how they were quickly accepted in the City of Angels.

Other personalities reflect upon what makes people from up North unique like the food and the mannerisms Canadians have. Sadly that makes this film lose focus.

If this movie was made to highlight why this cast is proud to be Canadian then the people who agreed to be part of this documentary does this country justice. Whatever William Shatner or Pamela Anderson‘s reasons are for not appearing, at least they are mentioned in passing. Suspiciously missing, if not barely given credit, is the mention of pop culture beauties Amanda Tapping (Stargate SG-1), Jay Baruchel (How to Train Your Dragon) and Keanu Reeves (The Matrix). To boil down the list of whom to feature must have been tough for writer/directors Ian Ferguson and Leslie Bland. For them to juggle between this film’s varied list of 32 performers is very commendable in a very short 99 minute film.

Although this film is just not painting a complete picture of how many Canadians were in Hollywood entertaining the masses from decade to decade, perhaps a book is in store in the future.

4 Stars out of 5

Author: Ed Sum

I'm a freelance videographer and entertainment journalist (Absolute Underground Magazine, Two Hungry Blokes, and Otaku no Culture) with a wide range of interests. From archaeology to popular culture to paranormal studies, there's no stone unturned. Digging for the past and embracing "The Future" is my mantra.

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