When Quebec actor Marie-Evelyne Lessard considered taking on a daring, provocative, and sexually explicit role for a film, she said she didn't hesitate. Except for maybe five minutes, she said with a laugh.
She was rewarded with a special jury prize from the Whistler Film Festival on December 2 for her performance in Fair Sex (Les manèges humains).
In the French-language drama, a 25-year-old Quebec carnival worker named Sophie turns out to be a survivor of genital excision as a child in Africa. The mutilation has created extreme sexual complications for her as an adult. To overcome her problems, she comes up with an unusual plan that deeply affects her relationships.
"I was kinda scared but I knew I would do it because I read the whole script in an hour because I was so into it right away," she told the Georgia Straight after her win. "The script was well-written by Martin [Laroche] and he really knew what he was wanted and I was confident we would make something that would work. So I jumped into it. I decided very quickly actually….The subject was so important for me, and I wanted to play that character."
As she mentioned in her acceptance speech at the WFF awards brunch, what appealed to her was that this drama was set in Canada, rather than in Africa, thereby helping Canadian viewers feel less distanced from the issues being addressed.
"All the subject[s] about women around the world interest me," she told the Straight. "This subject is really not treated or [given] so little [attention] and it was based in North America, which is rare."
She said she's currently busy working on three TV series in Montreal. As for English-language work, she said she's game: "If someone's interested, I'm all yours!"
Quebec films were prominently featured at the festival, including special presentations of Omertà (a Montreal mob film based on a TV series and the second highest-grossing Canadian film of the year) and Mars et Avril (a sci-fi movie set in Montreal in the near future).
You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at twitter.com/cinecraig.