Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The 26th annual Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois, February 17 to 27 in Montreal

Tonight marks the opening of the Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois, the annual celebration of Québec films. The opening film is an invitation-only gala screening of La Dernière fugue (The Last Fugue) directed by Léa Pool. The film is an adaptation of Gil Courtemanche’s novel Une belle mort (A Beautiful Death) by both the novelist and director, and includes a number of comedians in its cast of Jacques Godin, Andrée Lachapelle, Yves Jacques, Benoit Gouin, Isabelle Miquelon, Marie-France Lambert, and Alyosha Schneider. The closing film will be Robert Morin’s Le journal d’un coopérant (The Diary of an Aid Worker) which was filmed in Burundi.

Many of the films being shown were nominated just yesterday for Jutra Awards, including Dédé à travers les brumes (Dédé Through the Mists), Grande ourse - La clé des possibles (Master Key), Polytechnique, J’ai tué ma mere (I Killed My Mother), Je me souviens (I remember), Les doigts croches (Crooked Fingers), De Père en flic (Father and Guns), La donation (The Legacy), 5150, rue des Ormes (5150 Elm's Way), and Lost Song. The lyrical and tragic Lost Song was a winner of the Best Canadian Feature Film prize at the Toronto International Film Festival where it premiered in 2008.

Not all of the films are in French, however. English-language titles include Love and Savagery, a charming romance set in Ireland; The Wild Hunt, a fun and very clever look at live action role-playing (LARPing); The Timekeeper, based on Trevor Ferguson’s 1995 novel; and the indie comedy Who Is KK Downey? Takako Miyahira's Looking for Anne is English and Japanese. English documentaries to watch for include the fascinating Taqwacore: La naissance de l'Islam punk (Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam) and the in-depth examination of the devastation in Alberta’s tar sands, H2Oil.

Le dernier train (Last Train Home) is a Chinese-language documentary about migrant workers by Montreal-based Lixin Fan. His film won top prizes at the first three film festivals where it played, including the big cheese of documentary festivals, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). Look for my review next week, before its Ontario release date. Kakalakkuvik (Là où sont restés les enfants/Where the Children Dwell) is a moving first-person documentary by Jobie Weetaluktuk in Inuktitut, and relates his generation’s disturbing experience with residential schools in Nunavik, the Inuit region of northern Quebec.

Many of the short films have no dialogue at all. Danse Macabre and Tungijuq are two beautiful and haunting films that fuse stunning imagery with sound and music. English-language short films to look for include the Day Before Yesterday, a dark but subtle portrayal of a woman without a past; Among Friends, where a friendly get-together doesn't go exactly as planned; Useless Things, about a man dealing with the death of his parents; and the comical King Chicken.

English-Canadian filmmakers can only envy the level of success that Quebec films and filmmakers have achieved. As well as winning major prizes (e.g. the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, for Les invasions barbares), their films are watched and appreciated by their public. Quebeckers have a love and respect for their artists that English-Canadians simply do not. It seems we Anglos have acquired a terrible inferiority complex from consuming so much American culture that we cannot believe that our artists are any good until they get validation abroad. Once they do get that validation, we accuse them of selling out.

In any event, Quebec cinema has a level of artistry, quality and confidence that far exceeds its small population. They are making some of the best movies in the world right now. You should definitely try to see some of these films if you haven’t already.

For more information, go to (French only)

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