tell the other

It went almost unnoticed. But on April 20, Telefilm Canada, the federal agency that holds the purse strings for our film production, announced that its Task Force – Diversity and Inclusion had just created a sub-committee, which will have the mandate to reflect on the notion of “authentic stories” that are told by our creators.

Posted May 12

“Determining who will have the opportunity to tell a particular story is a complex issue that requires a lot of collaboration and expertise,” reads the press release that was released.

Why such an initiative on the part of Telefilm Canada? “Ensuring an authentic representation is of paramount importance if we want the stories brought to the screen to be more respectful and stronger”, adds one in the same text.

But what is an authentic story? At Telefilm Canada, we recognize that we don’t really know. “That’s what we want to define with the subcommittee,” I was told. This is a bit strange. We want to frame a concept that is not yet defined.

The initiative for this sub-committee came as a result of discussions that took place during Canada Screen Week, which marked the presentation of the Canadian Screen Awards last April. I wanted to know more about these “discussions”. Because you should know that during this event, the words of a director created some turmoil.

tell the other


Director Barry Avrich presented his film Black+White at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2021.

Filmmaker Barry Avrich, who is not black, received the award for Best Biographical Documentary for his film Oscar Peterson: Black+White. During his speech, the director said: “Here is the proof that there are so many stories of black people in Canada that need to be told. It doesn’t matter who tells them, we just have to tell them. This statement did not pass at all.

The Black Screen Office and the Reelworld Film Festival said Barry Avrich’s remarks “underplayed the importance of black filmmakers in telling black stories in Canada, when it is already difficult for them to obtain funding for their projects,” reported The Canadian Press on April 8.

Barry Avrich hastened to say that he regretted his remarks and that he had misspoken.

At Telefilm, I am assured that this controversy has nothing to do with the decision to create this subcommittee. “Research and reflection on best practices for authentic storytelling has been increasing for many years now, around the world”.

I watched Avrich’s excellent documentary. It’s the finest tribute this great pianist of Montreal origin could dream of. We give voice to a wide variety of musicians and specialists (Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones, Billy Joel, etc.), we tell the builder he was, we describe the immense talent he had. On this side, nothing to complain about.

I am very anxious to discover the conclusions of the work of this sub-committee, whose members have not yet been chosen. But you have to be naive not to see that you are heading towards a framework, or, if you prefer, guidelines, which the creators will have to take into account when submitting a film project.

According to the press release, like other previous models, this reflection should make it possible “to bring about significant and lasting changes within the Canadian film industry”.

The creators will therefore have to demonstrate that they are able to deal with the subject they have scripted. And that they will do it correctly.

This approach is all the more surprising when we know that Telefilm has created various criteria and programs to promote greater diversity in terms of production, creation, direction and screen representation.

Last year, a consultation was conducted with the Black Screen Office. The goal of Be Seen: Guidelines for Authentic and Inclusive Content was to “galvanize » the film and television industry to raise awareness for better representation of Black people, including people of color with disabilities and LGBTQ2+.

The work that has been done for several years in this direction is bearing fruit. We see a difference. But there is still a lot to do, because the catch-up is enormous. We must continue to work to increase this diversity, to give those who have talent the chance to be better represented.

But what I fear, when I read: “determining who will have the possibility of telling such and such a story”, is that we dare to interfere in the marriage between a subject and its creator. We are going on a minefield, that of: because you are not black, francophone, anglophone, woman, gay, trans or handicapped, you cannot tell the story of others.

Are we telling creators that they will no longer be able to venture into territories that do not “belong to them”? I hope not. At Telefilm, I was simply told that this reflection on authentic stories “does not mean that we can no longer tell stories about other communities”.

If you allow me, I will wait until the end of this exercise to see how all this will reflect on paper.

This search for “authenticity” handled by the “right people” runs the risk of discouraging certain creators who will no longer want to go to lands to be cleared, to unknown areas.

However, the world of creation is made up of trials, quests, risks and doubts. If we take that away, the creator no longer has a raison d’être.

Would a black director have the same point of view as a white director to tell the life of a black pianist? Probably not. But that is precisely what defines the work of a director. She or he is expected to offer a vision, his or her vision.

This is why, in this reflection, it is absolutely necessary to protect the freedom of creators.

For the rest, it is a question of talent, respect, love and passion for his subject. And especially from a point of view.

We would like to give thanks to the author of this write-up for this incredible web content

tell the other

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