Filmmakers from Quebec have often been directly involved in wider trends and movements as a distinct national cinema developed within Canada, yet many have also sought to establish an independent and distinct form of French-language film culture specific to their region. An early intervention, resulting from the strength and influence of Catholicism, was the insistence on a stricter censorship code governing film exhibition in Quebec. The demand for recognition of Quebec’s cultural, religious, and linguistic separateness became particularly pronounced in the late 1950s, leading to the révolution tranquille, or quiet revolution, during which Quebec demanded greater autonomy. Emulating wider struggles with the federal government during this period, Quebecois filmmakers sought to persuade the National Film Board (Office National du Film, or ONF) to fund a separate but parallel studio. After nearly a decade of piecemeal change, an independent Francophone section was officially sanctioned in 1964. Many of the films made by the ONF, including Les raquetteurs/The Snowshoers (Michel Brault and Gilles Groulx, 1958) and Pour la suite du monde/For Those Who Will Follow (Pierre Perrault, 1963), focused on specific cultural and geographical experiences, and the question of national identity; and, as the struggle for autonomy continued through the 1970s, often adopted an explicitly political agenda based on class struggle; in this context Anne Claire Poirier’s documentary film De mère en fille/Mother to be (1968) was the first to be directed by a French-Canadian woman. The documentary film movement was a key arena of agitation, with Denys Arcand’s account of exploitative labour practices, On est au coton/Cotton Mill, Treadmill (1970), banned by the federal government until 1976. The work of Perrault and Brault was internationally significant as a distinct form of documentary, that interacted with the development of cinéma vérité in France (Brault was cameraman on Jean Rouch’s seminal Chronique d’un été/Chronicle of a Summer (1961)) (see also politics and film). Feature film production proved more difficult: a number of films co-produced with France were released, including the internationally successful Mon oncle Antoine/My Uncle Antoine (Claude Jutra, 1971), La mort d’un bûcheron/The Death of a Lumberjack (1972), and L’ange et la femme/The Angel and the Woman (1977), the latter two directed by Gilles Carle and starring Carole Laure. Feminist pioneer filmmakers from the 1970s, including Poirier, Paule Baillargeon, and Mireille Dansereau, paved the way for significant women directors of the 1980s such as Micheline Lanctôt and Léa Pool. Denys Arcand made the transition from ONF documentary making to feature film production, and with the critical success of Gina (1975), Le déclin de l’empire Américain/The Decline of the American Empire (1986), and Jésus de Montréal (1989) quickly became one of Quebec’s, and Canada’s, best-known directors. During this period Francis Mankiewicz, Jean Beaudin, and Jean Claude Lauzon also made significant films, as did renowned Quebecois auteur Robert Morin.
In the contemporary period, the work of Robert Lepage attracts international recognition and commercial success, and a number of successful French-Canadian directors, including Xavier Dolan, Philippe Falardeau, Philippe Lesage, Jean-Marc Vallée, and Denis Villeneuve, have also worked in the US film and television industry, the latter winning critical acclaim for Arrival (2016) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017). Louise Archambault, Manon Briand, Lyne Charlebois, and Catherine Martin continue Quebec’s strong tradition of female filmmaking. More recently, Quebec has sought to establish international links, setting up the Association Trophées Francophones du Cinéma (or ATFciné) in 2012; chaired by Mauritanian film director Abderrahmane Sissako and based in Montreal (and Paris), the Association seeks to promote the work of Francophone filmmakers worldwide. Kim Nguyen’s French- and Lingala-language Canadian film Rebelle/War Witch (2012), shot in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is indicative. From 2017 Quebec’s tax credit scheme was made more generous, attracting US runaway production, with particular support for virtual reality, with this and other new media technologies a key specialism of Montreal’s production and post-production houses.
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