Take me back to the NSI Drama Prize film gallery

Presented by the Brian Linehan Charitable Foundation


Adapted from Thomas King’s celebrated, darkly comic story, two old friends trapped in a dystopic American seniors’ game preserve try to escape to Canada. As hunting season begins, they get their chance. But is the grass always greener on the other side? A striking film that plays with themes of patriotism, state security and personal liberties.

Creative team

Producer: Les Lukacs
Writer/director: John Bolton

Director’s statement

John Bolton says, “Thomas King is my favourite Canadian author and it’s an honour to be the first filmmaker to obtain his permission to adapt one of his short stories.

King’s writing brilliantly employs the tropes of First Nations oral storytelling traditions to interrogate genre conventions of Western popular culture, and it celebrates both forms while at the same time exploring – and exploding – their respective limitations. His work is always at once traditional and contemporary, respectful and irreverent, deadly serious and seriously funny. His work is also almost always deceptively simple and The Closer You Get To Canada is no exception.

On the surface, it’s a lamenting environmentalist argument against sport killing that also pokes fun at how Canadians stereotypically imagine America and Americans, and of how Americans stereotypically imagine Canada and Canadians.

But just beneath the surface it’s a Swiftian satire of North American societies’ attitudes towards seniors citizens, as well as First Nations, and how historically both ‘problems’ have been ‘solved’ through the seniors home and reservation systems.

In authoring his allegory, King goes much further in The Closer You Get To Canada than Swift does in his Modest Proposal – instead of merely outlining arguments, he dramatizes them, to humanizing, hilarious and heartbreaking effect.

Of course, The Closer You Get To Canada is much more than a deadly serious allegory – it’s an action-packed story in a fantastic setting featuring hugely likeable characters. Like the best short stories, it’s as narratively straightforward as it’s thematically complex. In as many words, it was an ideal piece of writing to adapt as a short film.

Although it’s much more than just a great joke, The Closer You Get To Canada does have a killer punchline. It starts out as, seemingly, a sentimental retirement home comedy: a grandfather visits with his granddaughter; argues with his son; flirts with a female admirer; bickers with his friend; and so on. As one starts to realize that things aren’t quite what they seem, the suspense builds until it’s revealed what’s really going on at this ‘seniors game preserve,’ at which point the story becomes the life-and-death drama it really is.”

About the creative team


John Bolton

John Bolton is an award-winning filmmaker from Vancouver, Canada focusing on performing arts pieces, literary adaptations, sports films and the occasional disaster flick. He produces, writes and directs through his own production company, Opus 59 Films. He is also an associate producer at Sepia Films and recently worked on A Shine of Rainbows, In Their Skin and A Mother’s Nightmare and Hue.

Most recently, John produced and directed a documentary about the making of Fallujah, the first opera about the Iraq war and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for the Annenberg Foundation, Explore.org and City Opera Vancouver; a series of classical music shorts for Knowledge Network’s performing arts strand Radio City; and the classical music performance piece Phobos and Deimos Circling featuring pianist Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa performing the music of composer Jocelyn Morlock.

Other recent works include the broadcast documentary 12 Takes (for Knowledge Network), a series of profiles of BC-based artists which was nominated for a Gemini award, a Golden Sheaf award and the Delphic Art Movie award; and the classical music hockey movies Flame/Through Walls (for Bravo!FACT) which screened at containR at the 2010 Winter Olympics and won a Golden Sheaf award.

Through NSI Drama Prize John made the disturbing black comedy The Closer You Get to Canada, based on the short story by Canadian author Thomas King. The short film features one of the final on-screen performances by the late Gordon Tootoosis. It had its world at the Toronto International Film Festival, broadcast premiere on CBC’s Canadian Reflections and won the Leo Award for Best Actress.

John’s other short films include the disquieting drama Valentines, based on the short story by Canadian author Nancy Lee, which premiered at the Vancouver International Film Festival, won Best Film at the Real 2 Real International Film Festival and the Leo Award for Best Actress; the Crazy8s comedyBreakdown, featuring a who’s who of Canadian television including Christopher Shyer, Amanda Tapping, Carly McKillip, Sonya Salomaa and Winston Rekert.

Breakdown premiered at the Whistler Film Festival and won the Canadian Comedy Award for Best Actress.

John’s other credits include the classical music performance pieces Beethoven Opus 59 No. 3 Allegro Molto (featuring the Borealis String Quartet) and Christus Vincit (featuring the vocal chamber ensemble musica intima), both of which premiered at the Vancouver International Film Festival for Bravo! Television. Both premiered at the Vancouver International Film Festival and were nominated for Golden Sheaf Awards.

John is developing several feature length projects including the feature film E Day is Coming, a seismic comedy about earthquake preparedness and real estate anxiety in Vancouver (with support from Telefilm Canada), and the musical docudrama Aim for the Roses about Canadian musician Mark Haney and Canadian daredevil Ken Carter (with support from the British Columbia Council for the Arts).

Take me back to the NSI Drama Prize film gallery