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1. Goin' Down The Road

Country Available: Canada, USA
Related Programs:
  • On Screen! II
  • 'On Screen! III
  • Unquestionably a Canadian classic and one of the most influential English-language films--if not cultural objects--in our history, Don Shebib's Goin' Down the Road tells the story of two down on their luck Easterners, the upwardly mobile Pete (Doug McGrath) and the good old hoser Joey (Paul Bradley), as they arrive seeking fortune in the big city: Toronto, circa 1970. But they soon find out that they're way over their heads, and have to scrounge to make ends meet, working dead-end jobs (like bottling soda pop), ending up with barely enough money to support themselves. The film's initial hopefulness gives way to a downcast look at unemployment and homelessness; far from being a period piece, Goin' Down the Road captures something essential in the big city Canadian experience, and has stayed alive in the cultural landscape--surely helped by a classic SCTV parody--ever since. It is a film that may be even more relevant today than in 1970.

    At the time of Goin' Down the Road , feature films were but a pipe dream in the minds of Canadian bureaucrats; the bulk of film production was National Film Board documentaries, and the Canadian Film Development Corporation was in the process of being formed (indeed, it gave funds to Shebib to help with the post-production). Shebib was an idea figure to bridge the gap between documentary and fiction, as he got his start at the CBC making a series of non-fiction films about disenfranchised subjects. Employing cinema vérité cameraman Richard Leiterman (who had already worked at that point with Fred Wiseman and Allan King), and the unique talents of a closely knit set of actors (all students of Eli Roth's method acting workshop in Toronto), Goin' Down the Road was filmed on weekends, at nights, without permits, and with a minimal crew--but with a great deal of skill. Little did the cast and crew know that they were making one of the most famous Canadian films, period, one that stands up favorably alongside similar post-60s films like Midnight Cowboy and Easy Rider .

    Though actor Paul Bradley unfortunately died last year, the rest of cast and crew have fond memories involved in the making of the film, and of Paul: this includes director Don Shebib, screenwriter (and noted director) William Fruet, cinematographer Richard Leiterman, composer Bruce Cockburn, and actors Doug McGrath, Jayne Eastwood, Cayle-Lorraine Sinclair, and Nicole Morin. The influence of Goin' Down the Road on contemporary filmmakers, especially its creation of the hoser archetype, is analyzed by filmmakers like Michael Dowse, such as Piers Handling, the author of The Films of Don Shebib , are able to place Goin' Down the Road in context. We will also examine the lasting power of the film, talking with, among others, programmer Steve Gravestock, who was in charge of the re-release of the film in 2002, and discuss with note academics some ongoing debates created by this seminal film (such as the depiction of masculinity, and core-periphery relations).

    View a printer friendly version of this page...Copyright Date: 2006 Length: 48 minutes Library Audience:
  • General Interest
  • Canadian Film Studies
  • School Audience:
  • 10-12
  • Post Secondary
  • Subjects:
  • Canadian Film Studies
  • Media Studies
  • Film Making
  • Language Arts
  • Formats Available:
  • DVD
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