2017 Focus Québec: Cinéma vagabond

A Vagrant Cinema

Short films are often exercises in style, appetizers, a ceremonial hazing or a stairway leading to feature films. For some, directing shorts is the road to becoming a filmmaker. At La Distributrice we believe being a filmmaker is a prerequisite to directing shorts. We’d like to think that the six directors you are about to discover have that stature.

Although this programme consists of six short films by six Montrealers, there is not a single shot of the city, nor of the suburbs. There is not even snow, no ice rinks, no sugar shacks, no maple leaves, no hipsters, no bagels. Half of the films are shot outside of Canada: In Haiti, in Panama, and in the middle of an ocean. One is an animation film, and the other two are shot indoors. Gilles Vigneault, one of our national treasures, used to sing: “My country is not a country, it’s the winter.” Québec filmmakers always seem to have acknowledged that the territories they needed to explore and conquer in cinema are made of time, of states of mind, of moods, not spaces.

Another aspect in Québec cinema is identity, and its particularity of representing it through the prism of otherness. The filmmakers in this programme either explore other identities by escaping theirs (THE CRYING CONCH, THE LAST DAY, RED OF THE YEW TREE), turn it inwards so as to drown in it (TOWARDS THE COLONIES), or confront it head on to shatter what is left of it (NIGHT FLIGHT, SIGISMOND IMAGELESS).

The audience might leave the theatre without having learned much about Québec, but they will undoubtedly want to.

Serge Abiaad / La Distributrice de Films

The Films

IF OU LE ROUGE PERDUE (RED OF THE YEW TREE), Marie-Hélène Turcotte (Animation, Canada, 2016)

A pheasant hunt is the occasion for a voyage that is at once delicate and evocative, under the breath of maternal love.

VERS LES COLONIES (TOWARDS THE COLONIES), Miryam Charles (Experimental, Canada, 2016)

When a young girl is found off the Venezuelan coast, a medical examiner tries to determine the cause of death before the body is repatriated.

VOL DE NUIT (NIGHT FLIGHT), Clara L’Heureux-Garcia (Documentary, Canada, 2016)

UQAM. The University of Québec in Montréal. The “new” university. The time of a truce, the time of a night, words that shall awaken the sleeping scenery.

SIGISMOND SANS IMAGES (SIGISMOND IMAGELESS), Albéric Aurtenèche (Fiction, Canada, 2016)

Sigismond Langlois has to undergo a psychiatric evaluation on account of his violent behaviour. He pretends he was born with no image of himself. Throughout the questionnaire, he recounts the existence of a young man who has never seen himself, neither in his reflection nor on a photo, to the point of sometimes doubting his own existence.

LE DERNIER JOUR (THE LAST DAY), Frédéric St-Hilaire (Fiction, Canada, 2016)

A boy emerges from the sea. In front of him is an island formed by a volcano. In this world, time does not exist. It is a place sculpted by his own memories, where he can live and relive what has already been experienced.

LE CRI DU LAMBI (THE CRYING CONCH), Vincent Toi (Fiction, Canada, 2016)

A man is drawn into the footsteps of the historic Haitian slave leader Mackandal.

Also in the Programme:

Tribute and Masterclass with Denis Côté

Denis Côté is the most Germanic of Québec filmmakers. His prolific output is reminiscent of Fassbinder, his clinical and concise observational skills flirt with the cinema of Ulrich Seidl, his non-traditional style may seem as intimidating as a Peter Handke novel, he switches from fiction to documentary (sometimes within the same film) as easily as would a Herzog and his mystical and poetic views on marginality convey Johan van der Keuken’s documentarian work. Côté is a dichotomist; he alternates between modest budget films where he con- structs and then deconstructs narrative forms of storytelling (CURLING, VIC + FLO, BORIS SANS BÉATRICE) and no budget films that ask of us to partake in his observational propositions (BESTIAIRE, QUE TA JOIE DEMEURE, TA PEAU SI LISSE, QUE NOUS NOUS ASSOUPISSIONS).

Côté’s films invite – sometimes force – the audience to become self-conscious about what they are looking at by creating an intimate relationship between them and the subject. His cinema can be infuriatingly obscure for some but rapturously poetic for others. Côté started as a film critic, which has shaped his concise and sharp take on filmmaking. Every film he has made since LES ÉTATS NORDIQUES (2005) has been a response; a slight deviation from the previous film and with each new exploration he has put himself at risk as to further exploring his capacities as a filmmaker to outstretch the boundaries of storytelling and our relationship to film.

Serge Abiaad


The Films

LES LIGNES ENNEMIES (THE ENEMY LINES), Denis Côté (Fiction, Südkorea/Canada 2010)

Six men. The forest. Menace is there somewhere. Armed, ready, looking for action, they wander day and night, striving for a confrontation. Masculinity is a terrible thing to waste.


Winter is persisting. Something has happened. At the heart of the woods, on the slopes of the mountains, in the streets and even inside homes, a strange silence has taken up residence. Will a single soul remain to witness the recent event?

EXCURSõES (AQUI EM LISBOA) (EXCURSIONS (HERE IN LISBON), Denis Côté (Fiction, Portugal/Canada 2015)

In Lisbon, Claudia offers guided tours in and out of the city. At night, she kills time with her sister in a modest apartment. In Lisbon, lonesome Martinho is fluent in Italian and guides tourists around the city. At night, he watches documentaries on the internet and reads about astronomy. In Lisbon, a band is jamming. They perform improvisational noise jazz. In Lisbon, a mysterious phenomenon fills the air. Claudia and Martinho’s lonely hearts discreetly meet to the sound of the music.