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Félicitations Are In Order

February 1, 2012

Over a week ago I posted about Philippe Falardeau’s film Monsieur Lazhar and its official-entry status for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars.  The next day it was announced that Falardeau’s film is now an official Oscar nominee (félicitations!)  This news is now stale and I apologize for even mentioning it (apparently stale news is ever so annoying to savvy interneters).   However, I feel that I can be somewhat forgiven, since this post is now about giving props to Canadian filmmakers past and present, as it was announced yesterday that another Quebecois film-maker, Michel Brault, will be honoured with the Outstanding Achievement award at this year’s Hot Docs film festival.

Brault (who had a hand in September 5 at St. Henri) has had a long and illustrious career in film-making, a good part of it spent with the National Film Board of Canada where he was instrumental in formulating the “Direct Cinema” style of film that the Board became known and well-regarded for in the 60s.  While Direct Cinema’s aims were to present subjects objectively and truthfully, some of Brault’s best films had narrative elements that combined the real with the fictional.

Pour la suite du Monde is a documentary that follows a group of men from an island village in Quebec who agree to be filmed while attempting to capture Beluga whales by employing traditional methods used by their ancestors.  The scenario is constructed, but the action is not.  It is a fascinating look at a group of men who, through rediscovering their past, are taken on a journey that brings them face to face with progress (they journey to New York to bring their captured whale to an aquarium).   On the other hand, Les Ordres is a scripted drama presented in documentary style and written about an actual event: the October Crisis.  Once again the line between fiction and reality is blurred and the results are stunning.   Les Ordres is probably Brault’s most well-known and celebrated work, and for good reason.

Michel Brault is a pioneer of Canadian cinema, and the recognition of his films by Hot Docs is well-deserved.  His work and the work of others have created a strong foundation for Canadian film that continues to evolve, producing impressive results, as the example of Philippe Falardeau’s recent achievement demonstrates.  I’ll be looking forward to the Oscars, as well as the Genie’s (the Canadian Oscars, if you will) where many of the nominated films this year are pretty durn great.  It’s nice to see Canadian film in the spotlight and I wish all the nominees the best of luck.

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