THANKS for stopping by, I do my best to acknowledge when someone leaves a comment,you do not have to be a member here & everyone is welcome.
Ps: This site is monitored but not actively posting on a regular basis. Mostly these are stories & some photos saved from a defunct site known as Verdun Connections which was on MSN Groups initially then on a social network called Multiply.
Monday, December 22, 2014
Another Article from the Montreal Gazette About Verdun Filmaker
Claude Demers gets very personal in new documentary set in Verdun
In a way, Claude Demers has been exploring his roots with his last two documentaries, Barbiers — Une histoire d’hommes and Les dames en bleu.
The former is a look at old-school Montreal barbers, the latter a fascinating take on popular Québécois crooner Michel Louvain and his legion of mostly-female fans. They’re both snapshots of his parents’ generation.
But his latest documentary, Where I’m From (D’où je viens), is much more personal. It’s a look back at his childhood growing up in Verdun, coupled with his own impressionistic snapshot of the city today. Where I’m From opens on Boxing Day at Excentris in its original French-language version with English subtitles.
The National Film Board of Canada project started from the idea “that I didn’t know where I come from exactly,” Demers said. “I was adopted … it’s more like a personal quest. It’s a mosaic film. It’s about this neighbourhood, so there’s a realistic part. At the same time, there’s a lyrical part. It’s more about my quest, to find out where I come from.”
The film partly focuses on two boys, Bastien and Cédric, living in Verdun now, who kind of stand in as alter egos of Demers as a kid, and he also captures various local characters, including a couple of fishermen, guys who hunt geese on the banks of the St. Lawrence and a colourful fellow who regales the folks at the Dunkin’ Donuts on Wellington.
But that contemporary fare is balanced by Demers’s heart-on-his-sleeve narration that has him talking about his often melancholic early years.
I don’t remember anything … except the rage and violence.”
It’s as if I have no history,” Demers says in the film. “Who am I really?” — Claude Demers
He speaks in the narration of “this incredible sadness.” Of his teen years, he says: “I feel a deep void within me and a desire to be elsewhere.” At another point, he looks back again, saying: “I don’t remember anything … except the rage and violence.”
In other words, the film is anything but a typical documentary looking at a city and its history. It’s clear that much of this questioning comes from the fact Demers is adopted and that he has always been curious to find out more about his own roots.
“If you watch the movie, it looks like I suffered a lot, but it’s a condensed version,” Demers said. “It’s not like I was suffering every day. I have identity issues.” He traces the genesis of this trilogy of feature documentaries to meeting his biological mother eight or nine years ago. That’s when he moved away from fiction filmmaking to documentaries.
“I was working on different projects, a big, big feature, and it was so complicated,” Demers said. “During this period, I met my biological mother and it changed a lot of things in my life. It grounded me. And from that point, I didn’t want to make fiction like I was doing before.”
Barbiers came directly out of meeting his biological mother. She told him his biological father was Italian, which prompted him to focus on these barbers, many of whom were Italian.
His life as an adopted kid is addressed more directly in Where I’m From. Talking to Demers, I get the sense it was a cathartic experience for him making the film. He lives in Mile End, but he actually rented an apartment in Verdun for three months to really get a feel for the place and he spent a lot of time hanging out, at the McDonald’s just round the corner from the Verdun Auditorium, and at Dunkin’ Donuts.
Push the envelope
“When I arrived in Verdun, I said — ‘Where do I start?’ Well every time I was going to Verdun, I was going to the St. Lawrence River. So I said — ‘There’s something there.’ And after a few months, there were five topics that were really important. Childhood. The relationship with nature. Faith. The words. And struggle. That was my guideline.”
And most important, he wanted to take some chances with the film, to push the envelope.
“I think I found a way (to talk about my life) in a more evocative way, in a more poetic way. I’m quite happy. People say they recognize themselves in my film. Recognize when they were kids. That was my challenge — to be personal and universal at the same time. The challenge was to be lyrical and realistic.”
Where I’m From (D’où je viens) opens at Excentris Friday.