Rendez-vous du Cinéma Québécois festival hits local screens
Even if your name is Xavier Dolan, your films may not get a theatrical run in Vancouver.
Régis Painchaud knows what a challenge it is to bring francophone films to the West Coast. The founder of the Rendez-vous du Cinéma Québécois et Francophone de Vancouver has spent the past 20 years doing his best to provide locals with access to francophone cinema through his festival, which runs from February 7 to 16 (www.rendez-vousvancouver.com/ ).
In a phone interview, Painchaud says that when he began the festival with friends, “there were only two films in French that were showing in Vancouver.” Today, French-Canadian cinema has been hitting Vancouver screens in a much different capacity: Québécois talent has been making a major splash in Hollywood with directors like Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners) and Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club).
Painchaud is refocusing the light back onto contemporary hot-button issues in la belle province through a historical lens.
“This year, the debate about identity in Quebec is so strong, I wanted to do something about [the 1970] October [Crisis] and the language situation in Quebec,” Painchaud says. The opening film, La Maison du Pêcheur (February 7), takes place 18 months before the crisis, when brothers Paul and Jacques Rose and Francis Simard met Bernard Lortie (all of them later members of the Chénier cell of the FLQ) for the first time in Percé.
He’s also screening Michel Brault’s 1974 feature Les Ordres (February 9)—a historical drama about how almost 500 innocent civilians were arrested and imprisoned under the War Measures Act during the October Crisis—which Painchaud calls “one of the best movies produced in Canada”.
The discussion continues with a postfestival screening (March 5) of the documentary La Langue à Terre, which examines the Anglicization of Montreal.
Meanwhile, Yukon Parle Français (February 10) takes a look at a francophone community in the Yukon, which, Painchaud says, continues to grow year after year.
Topical issues aside, the lineup offers a little something for everyone. Quebec’s 2013 box-office champion, Louis Cyr: L’Homme le Plus Fort du Monde, is a biopic about the legendary strongman from Saint-Cyprien-de-Napierville. Triptyque, Robert Lepage’s directorial return to cinema, will close the festival. There’s a selection of films for Black History Month (including the France-Senegal coproductions La Pirogue and Grigris, and the Haitian documentary Heroes of the Sun) as well as queer cinema (Sarah Préfère la Course, Vic + Flo Ont Vu un Ours). Painchaud also squeezed in some Vancouver content with Anne Wheeler’s documentary Chi, about the late local star Babz Chula seeking cancer treatment in India. (He and Chula both worked on Marc Retailleau’s locally shot 1999 film Noroc.)
A few films were only available without English subtitles, much to Painchaud’s dismay, which speaks to how difficult it can be to secure films from the francophone world.
“It’s always tough to have the selection I really want to have for Les Rendez-vous, but I hope for the next couple of years it will be different.”
Undoubtedly, Vancouver’s cineastes hope so too.