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KARLOVY VARY – Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies and Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar made the Oscar foreign film short list in the last two years after first breaking out on the international festival circuit.
That’s where Quebecois writer/director Rafaël Ouellett comes in as his latest movie, Camion, receives a world premiere in official competition this week at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.
“We have plenty of great directors in Quebec. We have a nice new generation coming up, and we have our own masters,” Ouellett said of a new wave of filmmakers like Falardeau, Villeneuve, Stephane Lafleur, Denis Côté and Guy Édoin.
Ouellet’s character-driven Camion, a reflective family drama about a veteran truck driver filled with despair after a tragic car accident while his two sons reunite in the family home, follows in French Canada’s new wave tradition by being minimalist and slow-paced.
“I wanted something more rigid and austere,” the auteur director said of his film locations in Quebec and New Brunswick, where he shot the picture in early winter.
The inspiration for Camion was Ouellet’s father, a truck driver for 40 years.
“Once, he was depressed after an accident where a woman was seriously injured. So I imagined what would have happened had the woman being killed,” the director explained.
Ouellet brought his third film, New Denmark, to Karlovy Vary in 2009.
Now he’s back with Camion, and promotional backing from Telefilm Canada, the federal government film financier, as it looks to international festivals to select and screen Canadian films to build audience awareness back home.
“When you have a lot of money from the government, you need to bring people to the cinemas,” Ouellet said as part of his bargain.
“I hope this will build an enthusiastic audience back home,” he adds, as he takes in the many luxury hotels and church spires in the elegant Czech Republic spa town.
The irony is, while Camion will travel well in Francophone markets worldwide, the French language film will be hard-pressed to make it into theaters in English-speaking Canada, beyond the local festival circuit.
Incendies and Monsieur Lazhar received wide releases in English Canada only after snagging their Academy Award nominations.
“It’s a mystery to me,” Ouellett says of why his films are more popular with overseas audiences than in English Canada.
“It may be the exotic point-of-view, the language is different, it’s a way of traveling, of getting away,” he says of his film’s appeal on the international festival circuit.
Stephanie Morisette of Coop Vidéo de Montréal produced Camion, with K-Films Amérique to release the picture in French-speaking Quebec.
The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival continues to July 7.
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