The late sixties and early seventies were a heady and exciting time for Canadian artists. In music Guess Who’s “American Woman” outsold The Beatles. Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Neil Young were blazing a song writing trail across American music and Canadian performers featured prominently in bands such as Blood, Sweat and Tears, Steppenwolf and The Band. In art Alex Colville and Ken Danby were gaining international attention for their explorations in high realism, and in film Allan King’s Warrendale in 1967 and Don Shebib’s Going Down the Road in 1970 demonstrated that there was a market for quality Canadian film. In 1971 Shebib followed his early success with Rip-Off, a largely forgettable film that was notable only for launching the film review career of my brother, Wyndham Wise.
Forty years ago, on Oct 21, 1971, Wyn published his first film review of this film. Other reviews followed, principally on Canadian film, and Wyn began to gain something of a reputation as an expert on Canadian film. He continued to develop that expertise as Toronto reporter for Cinema Canada, and had the distinction of being its last writer, as the magazine folded in 1989. He then parlayed his experience into the launch of his own magazine, Take One in 1992, which during its fourteen year tenure, was widely regarded as the leading magazine on Canadian cinema1. At the beginning of the new century Wyn wrote and published through U. Of T. Press2 Take One’s Essential Guide to Canadian Film, still considered the gold standard reference for Canadian film. CBC books in its review wrote of Wyn’s book that it was “impressive for its breadth of coverage, refreshing in its opinionated informality,” and went on to note that it was a “comprehensive and lively look at Canadian film culture at the start of the twenty-first century”3. In 1997 Wyn founded the Toronto Film Critics Association, and launched Canadian Screenwriter for the Writers Guild of Canada in 1998. From 2008–11 he was the editor of Canadian Cinematographer. He is credited with the genesis of Hot Docs, a yearly celebration of documentary film that takes place in Toronto. He is a contributing editor to Northern Stars4, and continues to write about and promote Canadian film.
Canadian artists have had a notoriously difficult time making inroads into a largely American market. Some Canadian film makers, like Norman Jewison, Ivan Reitman, David Cronenberg and James Cameron have become tremendously successful, but often at the expense of ignoring Canadian themes, rather than in celebration of them. Those who write about Canadian film have an even harder time getting the public attention in this Hollywood dominated industry. I salute my brother for his tenacity and integrity in continuing to promote and critique this important artistic exploration of our national psyche for the last forty years. Congratulations, bro!