Okay, so this probably isn’t going to be your first choice when you are scrolling through Netflix. It is the type of film that you would pass over without a second thought, too quickly to even process the title or what it could be about. Helicopter Canada is one of those hidden gems on Netflix, though.
Whether it means to be funny or not is beside the question with this movie, as it is entertaining in a way that it was probably never meant to be. With that being said, you will learn some things about Canada if you watch this film. Some really strange things.
Made in 1966 in celebration of the Canadian centennial, Helicopter Canada was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 39th Academy Awards. Watching it almost 50 years later, the film has become a historical documentary as much as anything else. Along with seeing a 1966 mentality towards Canada, getting a bird’s eye view of the country gives perspective on the place. Some things (like the Bay of Fundy) haven’t changed, but looking at cities like Toronto as well as the industries that are highlighted in the film is actually cool.
As a helicopter travels across the country, narrator Stanley Jackson provides facts and information for the viewer. While some of the quotes themselves are funny, like how Canadians made “more telephone calls than any other people on the earth” in 1966, it is the dry sense of humour that Jackson seems to have that makes the film so entertaining and off-balance.
To make things even better, mixed in with Jackson’s commentary are other voiceovers. Children talk for a while, giving a description of what they see and trying to decide what exactly it is. They talk to each other and the viewer is left listening in, like a school teacher monitoring a class discussion. In other parts of the film, a ship’s captain takes over the talking, turning the film into a cruise as he describes where the next stop on the imaginary vacation will be.
The music as well will continuously surprise you. Throughout the film there is an eclectic mix of jazz, yodelling, rock and roll, French singing with harpsichords, classical, a children’s choir and more. There will be times in the film where you question if this is where all the Canadian stereotypes came from: the dogsledding, the kind people, the vast wilderness, the cold weather etc. The music doesn’t help disrupt any of those stereotypes, but it is entertaining nonetheless.
Coming in at exactly 50 minutes, I believe that it is the duty of everyone who calls Canada their home to watch a film like this, even if you just put it in the background. The movie was originally intended to teach an international audience what Canada was like, but it now can have a different purpose. If nothing else, maybe it will make you want to travel the country a little bit. Apparently there are some cool things to see.