La Francophonie on the big screen

By Emmanual St-Juste, Vancouver (British Columbia)

While they were preparing for the 17th Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois et francophone de Vancouver, Régis Painchaud and Lorraine Fortin, the festival’s two organizers, spoke to us about what they have achieved so far and the new challenges that lay ahead.

Where did the idea of setting up a Francophone film festival in Vancouver come from?

Régis: There is a history behind the Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois et francophone de Vancouver. When I was asked to put on an edition of the Rendez-Vous du cinéma québécois de Montréal (in French only), I jumped at the chance. Why not create the same event here, in Vancouver?

Lorraine: Above all, in my opinion, this festival had to offer film lovers a diverse program of the highest quality, in French. In fact, at each screening, cinema-goers rediscover a little of their culture and that opens the doors to La Francophonie.

Over the years, we have also reached out to Anglophones who love Quebec film. Through film, they discover a bit of Quebec’s soul, thanks to filmmakers from Denis Arcand to Xavier Dolan. We have also sought out Canadian and foreign co-productions. The idea was to present something that was close to us while broadening our horizons to include as much as possible.

Where does your passion for culture come from?

Régis: I grew up in Quebec, in a creative environment, and with an interest in developing our sense of personal freedom of expression. In the 80s, I decided to leave for the West Coast. As soon as I arrived, I went off to visit Vancouver’s Francophone communities, only to realize that they lived pretty much isolated from each other. This fact really struck me.

To me, there’s no reason for us not to have a “centre” that brings us together and reflects who we are. It’s important for Francophones, particularly in a minority context, to be able to have their say and express what they are feeling. Creating the Rendez-vous was an attempt to draw on those elements in Vancouver’s cultural sphere that could create a solid base upon which we could evolve together—Francophones and Francophiles from all over.

Lorraine: I was born in Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, in Quebec. A job in the hotel industry opened my eyes to the world and, for me, it was there that I realized what I really wanted—to be in contact with people—that’s how we develop. I left Quebec in 1991 with a determination to live and work in French.

How did you manage to set up such a dynamic festival?

Régis: Seventeen years for a cultural event is really something! Our first collaborators were the National Film Board of Canada and the Pacific Cinémathèque, which gave us a projection room. That first year, over 500 guests attended the screenings for free. The second year, I wasn’t able to be quite so generous, but the public wanted more, so I created the Club des 100, which was made up of 100 individuals, each of whom paid a subscription of $100 to cover expenses. From there, we were able to create a not-for-profit organization to keep the event going.

The development of a partnership with members of Vancouver’s Francophone community is an important element in the success of the Rendez-vous. Last year, we acquired a new projection room, the Jules-Verne auditorium, attached to the high school of the same name. This gives us a solid infrastructure and allows us to continue with our projects and serve the community. It’s really great news for the Rendez-vous.

For this 17th edition of the Rendez-vous, what have you got in store for us?

Lorraine: For the 17th edition, as well as presenting over 50 films, we have organized a series of get-togethers focusing on the films and the filmmakers. The idea is to invite the public to discover all the different aspects of the Francophone film industry.

We are also building relationships with film students here in Vancouver. They are the new generation of filmmakers who are preparing to join the industry, and we want to provide opportunities for them to meet the professionals. We want to produce something new and vibrant. We also hope to create a program that works—and produces results—for both the public and future professionals. We are sure that an event like this is just the beginning.

What are the plans for the future?

Régis: The next step is a program of shows in collaboration with the City of Vancouver, which will celebrate its 125th anniversary in 2011. The Rendez-vous du cinéma will undergo a number of changes, including the creation of the “Open Screen,” where people can present their own films and projects. It’s a way of highlighting the vitality of Francophone cinema made by the people here.

What legacy do you hope to leave through the Rendez-vous?

Francophone filmmakers in British Columbia?

Here are a few examples of Francophone films and filmmakers from the West Coast presented at the Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois et francophone de Vancouver:

Régis: Something has happened since the start of this festival. On our cinema screens today, the public are seeing more and more Quebec films, which have gone from being in the “foreign films” section to a truly Canadian section. A certain pride in our national cinema has emerged.

The Rendez-vous is becoming a platform that facilitates creation, reaching both Francophones and Anglophones. We should invest in our film industry across the country, encourage the broader distribution of Francophone films, and share our cultural richness. An event like this, based on the promotion of Francophone film culture, can only stimulate La Francophonie in Vancouver and elsewhere in Canada.

Published on Monday, February 14, 2011

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