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Quebec Film History: 1970 to 1989

This entry presents an overview of Québec cinema, from the burgeoning of a distinctly Québec cinema in the 1970s, to the production explosion that followed Denys Arcand’s Le déclin de l’empire américain (1986). It highlights the most important films, whether in terms of box office success or international acclaim, and covers both narrative features and documentaries. It also draws attention to an aspect of filmmaking that still has difficulty finding its place: women's cinema.

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Xavier Dolan

Xavier Dolan (born Xavier Dolan-Tadros), CM, actor, director, writer, producer, editor, costume designer (born 20 March 1989 in Montreal, QC). A precocious practitioner of auteurist art cinema, Xavier Dolan made a meteoric rise from child actor to acclaimed filmmaker. He garnered international acclaim at age 20 for his debut feature, J’ai tué ma mère (I Killed My Mother, 2009). His next four films — Les amours imaginaires (Heartbeats, 2010), Laurence Anyways (2012), Tom à la ferme (Tom at the Farm, 2013) and Mommy (2014) — were all completed by the time he was 25. They won numerous awards and further established him as one of international cinema’s most promising and prolific young filmmakers. His sixth feature film, Juste la fin du monde (It’s Only the End of the World, 2016), won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, César Awards for best director and editing, and six Canadian Screen Awards including Best Motion Picture, Adapted Screenplay and Achievement in Direction. Dolan was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2019.

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Adam Beach

Adam Reuben Beach, actor, advocate, motivational speaker (born 11 November 1972 in Ashern, MB). Saultreaux actor Adam Beach is one of Canada’s most successful actors of Indigenous descent. After co-starring in Bruce McDonald’s Dance Me Outside (1994) and the American indie hit Smoke Signals (1998), he gave acclaimed lead performances in John Woo’s Windtalkers (2002), Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers (2006) and the HBO TV movie Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (2007). He also starred in such Canadian TV series as The Rez (1996–97), Moose TV (2007) and Arctic Air (2012–14). He is a motivational speaker and an outspoken advocate for Indigenous peoples’ rights. In 2012, he founded the Adam Beach Film Institute, a film school in Winnipeg for Indigenous Youth.

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Denis Villeneuve

Denis Villeneuve, filmmaker (born 3 October 1967 in Gentilly, QC). Denis Villeneuve is one of Canada’s best-known and most acclaimed filmmakers. His visually inventive, atmospheric and sombre films frequently focus on themes of trauma, identity and memory. His Canadian films, including the searing psychological dramas Maelström (2000), Polytechnique (2009), Incendies (2010) and Enemy (2013), have won 22 Genie Awards, five Canadian Screen Awards and 26 Prix Iris. His Hollywood films — Prisoners (2013), Sicario (2015) and Arrival (2016) — have enjoyed critical and commercial success. He is the only Québécois filmmaker to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Director. With Blade Runner 2049 (2017) and an upcoming adaption of Frank Herbert’s Dune, Villeneuve has become one of the most sought-after filmmakers in the world. In December 2019, the Hollywood Critics Association named him the Filmmaker of the Decade.

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Jordin Tootoo

Jordin John Kudluk (Thunder) Tootoo, hockey player (born 2 February, 1983 in Churchill, MB). Jordin Tootoo is the first Inuk hockey player to play in the National Hockey League (NHL). Jordin got the attention of the NHL as a tough, talented right-winger in his junior hockey days in Manitoba. In 2003, he received national attention when he played for Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship. After playing 13 seasons in the NHL, he retired in 2018. He is known for speaking to youth and maintaining his Inuit culture.

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Métis National Council

The Métis National Council represents more than 350,000 members of the Métis Nation, defined as Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and parts of Ontario, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories.

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Métis

Métis are people of mixed European and Indigenous ancestry, and one of the three recognized Aboriginal peoples in Canada. The use of the term Métis is complex and contentious, and has different historical and contemporary meanings. The term is used to describe communities of mixed European and Indigenous descent across Canada, and a specific community of people — defined as the Métis Nation — which originated largely in Western Canada and emerged as a political force in the 19th century, radiating outwards from the Red River Settlement. While the Canadian government politically marginalized the Métis after 1885, they have since been recognized as an Aboriginal people with rights enshrined in the Constitution of Canada and more clearly defined in a series of Supreme Court of Canada decisions.

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Jim Brady

James Patrick Brady, prospector, Métis leader (born 11 March 1908 in Lake St. Vincent, AB; disappeared 7 June 1967 in the Foster Lakes area, SK). A grandson of one of Louis Riels soldiers, Brady became a leader among the Métis of northern Alberta and Saskatchewan. He was active in the radical politics of the 1930s, trying in vain to persuade the  Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) in Saskatchewan to implement progressive Indigenous policies. Brady was a founding member of the Association des Métis d’Alberta et des Territoires du Nord-Ouest in 1932 and remained a major figure in the organization as an influential teacher. The last moments of his life are shrouded in mystery as he disappeared on a prospecting trip in 1967.

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Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Christian Wiggins (born 23 February 1995 in Toronto, ON). Andrew Wiggins is a Canadian professional basketball player with the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Raised in Vaughan, Ontario, Wiggins first rose to fame as the world’s top-ranked high school basketball player and was a second-team All-American in college. In 2014, he became the second Canadian to be selected first overall in the NBA draft. He is the first Canadian player to be named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year and the first to score more than 40 points in a game. Wiggins also helped Canada secure three bronze medals in international competition. He is the highest-paid Canadian athlete of all time.    

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Joseph Rouleau

Joseph Alfred Pierre Rouleau, CC, GOQ, bass, teacher (born 28 February 1929 in Matane, QC; died 12 July 2019 in Montreal, QC). Opera singer Joseph Rouleau was renowned worldwide for his unerring theatrical sense and impressive vocal flexibility. He performed for 20 years with Covent Garden in London, where he played leading roles in more than 40 productions. In Canada, Rouleau appeared often with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Quebec Symphony Orchestra. He premiered the role of Monseigneur Taché in Harry Somers’s Louis Riel with the Canadian Opera Company (COC) in 1967. He also commissioned and premiered Jacques Hétu’s Les Abîmes du rêve with the Quebec Symphony Orchestra in 1984, and issued a recording of songs by Félix Leclerc in 1990. Rouleau received the Prix de musique Calixa-Lavallée, the Prix Denise-Pelletier and the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement. He was made an Officer and then Companion of the Order of Canada, and an Officer and then Grand Officer of the Ordre national du Québec. He was inducted into the Canadian Opera Hall of Fame in 1992.

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Sleeping Car Porters in Canada

Sleeping car porters were railway employees who attended to passengers aboard sleeping cars. Porters were responsible for passengers’ needs throughout a train trip, including carrying luggage, setting up beds, pressing clothes and shining shoes, and serving food and beverages, among other services. The vast majority of sleeping car porters were Black men and the position was one of only a few job opportunities available to Black men in Canada. While the position carried respect and prestige for Black men in their communities, the work demanded long hours for little pay. Porters could be fired suddenly and were often subjected to racist treatment. Black Canadian porters formed the first Black railway union in North America (1917) and became members of the larger Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1939. Both unions combatted racism and the many challenges that porters experienced on the job.

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Oscar Peterson

Oscar Emmanuel Peterson, CC, CQ, OOnt, jazz pianist, composer, educator (born 15 August 1925 in Montréal, QC; died 23 December 2007 in Mississauga, ON). Oscar Peterson is one of Canada’s most honoured musicians. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time. He was renowned for his remarkable speed and dexterity, meticulous and ornate technique, and dazzling, swinging style. He earned the nicknames “the brown bomber of boogie-woogie” and “master of swing.” A prolific recording artist, he typically released several albums a year from the 1950s until his death. He also appeared on more than 200 albums by other artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong, who called him “the man with four hands.” His sensitivity in these supporting roles, as well as his acclaimed compositions such as Canadiana Suite and “Hymn to Freedom,” was overshadowed by his stunning virtuosity as a soloist. Also a noted jazz educator and advocate for racial equality, Peterson won a Juno Award and eight Grammy Awards, including one for lifetime achievement. The first recipient of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement, he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the International Jazz Hall of Fame. He was also made an Officer and then Companion of the Order of Canada, and an Officer in the Order of Arts and Letters in France, among many other honours.