Postcard from Paris: Cinéma de Québec à Paris


Decades ago, the exportation of francophone movies was a one-way affair. In the 1960s, films were made in France and exported to the other French-speaking countries. Nowadays, however, the imagerecent success of movies from Canada, such as Les Invasions Barbares, C.R.AZ.Y. and La Grande Séduction, has increased the exportation of movies in the other direction. The annual Québécois film festival Cinéma de Québec à Paris plays an important role in this cultural exchange across the Atlantic.

Cinéma de Québec à Paris, held on the Champs Elysées, not only portrays the latest movies, it also organises a Marché de Cinéma and a forum where professionals from Canada, France, Switzerland and Belgium can meet and discuss new ideas. The festival, held from the 14 to 20 November, might therefore prove to be a breeding ground for future projects that transcend national borders.
Most of the movies shown at the festival have not been shown in Europe yet, which makes the festival a good opportunity for European audiences to get an overview of the latest developments in Québécois cinema.

Ma fille mon ange

One of the movies at the festival was Ma Fille Mon Ange, a thriller about a young girl who gets involved in the world of pornography. The movie was very successful at the Canadian box office. The main character Nathalie, played by Karine Vanasse, leaves the safe surroundings of Quebec City to study law in Montreal. One day her father, Germain, is scared out of his wits when he sees his daughter on a pornographic website, announcing that she will perform in a live broadcast.

On the day of her shoot, the actor who was to initiate Nathalie into pornograpy is found dead in his apartment. The movie continues as a psychological thriller which follows the detective who tries to find out who killed the actor.

Ma fille mon ange clearly shows the development of the Québécois cinema. The new movies are no longer simply concerned with establishing the cultural identity of Quebec, like for example the films from the cultural renaissance of the the 1970s. Movies produced in Quebec are now inclined to address more universal topics. The mix of influences from American thrillers, French film noir and traditional Québécois movies makes gives movie a unique voice.
Ma Fille Mon Ange shows modern Quebec through a creative lens. Montreal, the metropole, is very much juxtaposed against the safety of rural Quebec. Quebec City is portrayed as a safe, traditional place, whereas Montreal is the place where innocence is lost. Montreal, on the other hand, exemplifies modernity: it is a metropole, influenced by globalisation and filled with lights, cars and depravation. This contrasts strongly against the tress and colonial houses of Quebec City, which is shot from a low view. Montreal is mostly filmed from a high point above, which is reminiscent of American and Asian cinema.

Cultural influences

In 2008, the Canadians celebrate the 400-year anniversary of the foundation of Quebec City. Quebec City was founded by the French explorer Samuel De Champlain, one of the first cities of North America.

For a long time the province of Quebec formed a part of New France. This changed, however, in the 18th Century, when Quebec became a part of the British Empire. Later, Quebec was included within the nationstate of Canada.

This led to a cultural renaissance: From the beginning of the 20th century onward, artistic production was very much concerned with establishing the Quebecois identity. In the artistic imagery of the time, there was a strong emphasis on the history as a part of France, a big role for Québécois traditional life and the nature and landscape of La Belle Province.

The cultural revival in Quebec was accompanied by an increased interest in French culture. This tendency continued throughout most of the century. In the early ‘60s, the issue of Québécois identity gained momentum by a change of regime in politics and because Quebec was gradually opening to the world - through the advent of satellite communication and the organisation of the 1968 Worlds Fair in Montréal, for example. These factors called for a new definition of Quebec’s cultural position.

Of course, there always have been other influences in the artistic landscape of Quebec. There always have been links with the nearby United States. One has only to think of Jack Kerouac, the author of On the Road, whose family moved to the US, like a lot of Quebecers, to improve their destiny.

La guide de la petite vengeance

From the makers of La grande séduction comes a new movie called La guide de la petite vengeance. It tells the story of Bernard (Marc Béland), an accountant with the luxurious jewelery store Vendôme. Bernard is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and about to be divorced from his wife, when he meets Robert, played by the Austrian-French actor Michel Muller.

Robert tells him that he used to be the accountant at Vendôme before Bernard started there, and he explains how the French owner, M. Vendôme, subjects his employees to a form of psychological harrassment which leads to mental disarray and psychosis. He convinces Bernard that they both became victims of Vendôme’s perfect crime, «  a crime with no weapon, but with a victim ».

Bernard believes Robert and starts to blame his boss for turning him into a wreck. Together, Bernard and Robert make a plan to take revenge on Vendôme. It is only to be a small revenge to get even, so they decide upon the theft of some pieces of jewellery.

For a moment, the viewer is led to believe the movie will follow in the footsteps of Fight Club but the filmmakers have their own little revenge on the audience. La guide de la petite vengeance, like several other new movies from Quebec, is able to transcend its influences. Like the main character it escapes to define its own path in the world of cinema.

Development of Québécois cinema

In recent years, cinema is moving away from the question of autonomy and its focus on traditional and religious topics. On the festival Cinéma de Québec à Paris it is quite clear to see the difference between the works of the previous generation of filmmakers and those of the young guard.

The older generation of filmmakers still puts a strong emphasis on the traditional francophone culture and the role of the landscape of la Belle province. The new movie by the director Fernand Dansereau, La Brunante (2006), is a good example. Mr. Dansereau, who made his first movie in 1969, accords a big part of his movie to the healing quality of the landscape of rural Québec.

Younger movie makers, however - and the festival hosted several directors who presented their first feature movie, such as Stephan Lafleur, Sophie Deraspe and Marc Bisaillon – are creating their own way of displaying the world.

Globalisation led to a more diversified view of the world and nowadays, young filmmakers can take all the influences that shaped the cinema before them - French, American and traditional Québécois - and adapt them into their own artistic expressions, thereby creating their own distinct voice.

One recent development in Quebec cinema is the emergence of the Kino movement, which started around 2000. The filmmakers make short movies with a very powerful punchline. The style is very simple, and the filmmakers work with as little budget as possible. The movement’s motto is “Do well with nothing, Do better with little, and Do it right now!”

The movies are mostly shown in local venues, like bars and small cinemas, where compilations of these movies are shown in an informal setting. These Soirées Kino are hugely popular as social events, and form an outlet for alternative views and artistic visions. The idea was successfully adapted in countries all over the world.

One of the founders of the Kino movement, Stephen Lafleur, presented his first long movie, Continental un film sans fusil, at the festival. It is a movie about solitude and lost love, and no solace from the landscape. Again, one can see the new direction the cinema is taking, moving towards the treatment of more universal issues.

The influences are more diverse, the movie is sometimes reminiscent of Paris, Texas by Wim Wenders or the works of Aki Kaurismäki. The visual language of the movie is very distinct, taking from the director’s experience in Kino a reliance on a basic mode of storytelling without resorting to special techniques or effects. In Continental there is a strong question whether tradition has to be kept or burnt.

Short movies

Furthermore, the festival showed a selection of short movies. One of these was the hilarious Sur la ligne (2006), A short movie that is not only comic but also treats some social and cultural problems in Québécois society. Sur la ligne starts in a cigarette shop on the border of a Mohawk reservation near Montreal.

Two young natives are watching a tv report about an incident at sea where a native fishing boat is overrun by the Canadian coastguard, which makes one of the boys extremely angry. Tensions rise with the arrival of two French tourists, who want to spend a couple of days in the reserve, « to do something quaint and traditional ».

The situation escalates fast with the arrival of two police officers, one from the Montreal side of the line and the other from the reserve. The movie is extremely comical, but also very satirical like in some movies from the Kino movement. The satire touches upon some national insecurities such as the tension between caucasions and natives and the everpresent language barrier.


It took some time for the Québécois cinema to find its own voice. Recent years have seen a great increase in the influence of the movies made in Quebec. Now that the artistic expression has released itself from the quest for an own identity and has focused more on universal issues, the Québécois cinema is ready to appeal to a wider audience. The market share of movies made in Québec has risen on the home market and several movies received international acclaim.

Cinéma de Québec à Paris is an excellent way for European filmlovers to see a showcase of the cinematographic production from Québec. It is a great chance to compare the different new ideas, and one can even meet with the directors of the movies and discuss their motives and perspectives on cinema.




À vos marques, party by Frédérik D’Amours

Ma fille mon ange d’Alexis Durand-Brault

Ma tante Aline by Gabriel Pelletier

Nitro d’Alain Desrochers

Continental, un film sans fusil by Stéphane Lafleur

Contre toute espérance by Bernard Émond

Guide de la petite vengeance by Jean-François Pouliot

La brunante by Fernand Dansereau

La capture by Carole Laure

La lâcheté by Marc Bisaillon

Les 3 p’tits cochons by Patrick Huard

Rechercher Victor Pellerin by Sophie Deraspe


Chez Schwartz by Garry Beitel

Le fugitif ou les vérités d’Hassan by Jean-Daniel Lafond

L’esprit des lieux by Catherine Martin

Notre père by Marie-Julie Dallaire

Short movies

Broil by Erik Cimon / 20 min. / fiction / 35mm / 2006

Dust Bowl Ha! Ha! by Sébastien Pilote

Eau boy by Erik Gravel

La ballade des enfarinés by Julie Rocheleau

L’éducation nautique by Christian Laurence

Madame Tutli-Putli by Chris Lavis et Maciek Szczerbowski

Petit dimanche by Nicolas Roy

Souviens-toi de m’aimer by Bertrand Weissgerber

Sur la ligne by Frédéric Desager

Zackary Samuel : illusionniste by Benjamin Steiger Levine

The Rip-Off by Kun Chang

Le poète danois by Torill Kove

Terreur au 3918 by Mathieu Fontaine

Yassin Amartib is an intern at the EJC. He graduated from the Universiteit van Amsterdam with a master’s degree in literature and culture.