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Produced by Tamara Lynch; directed by Claire Helman
National Film Board of Canada, 1991. VHS cassette, 25:37 min., $26.95
Distributed by the National Film Board of Canada

Grades 7 and up/Ages 12 and up

Reviewed by Frances Daw Bergles.

Volume 20 Number 2
1992 March

Roch Carrier is a national treasure. Born in Sainte-Justine-de-Dorchester, Quebec, in 1937, he continues to mine the motherlode of rural French-Cana­dian experience in his books, plays and film scenarios. According to Mark Abley, writing in Saturday Night, "Carrier's style combines the classical poise of Voltaire with the burly gusto of Rabelais; he stylizes and heightens the speech of rural Quebec." Through the translations by Sheila Fischman of ten of his novels he has become the most read Quebecois writer in English Canada.

This video, directed by Claire Helman of Studio G of the NFB, is the first live-action documentary from a studio whose mandate is to produce filmstrips for the education market. In a telephone interview Helman said she was given the opportunity to make a low-budget documentary after making a number of filmstrips on English-Canadian writers. She felt that a video on a francophone writer was overdue and that Carrier was a natural because of his rapport with students. Further­more, the last NFB production on Carrier, The Ungrateful Land (Roch Carrier Returns to Sainte-Justine), was produced almost twenty years earlier.

Roch Carrier: Storyteller Supreme features Carrier reading to, and in discussion with, the students of Mon­treal's Bialik High School. It is comple­mented by scenes relating to some of his stories, clips from The Sweater and The Ungrateful Land, sequences filmed at Restaurant Chez Pierre, and discussions with Sheila Fischman. Novels read from include The Hockey Sweater and Other Stories (Les enfants du bonhomme dans la lune (Alain Stanke, 1979,1983)), La guerre, yes sir! (Anansi, 1970) (La guerre, yes sir! (Les editions du jour, 1968)), Lady with Chains (La Dame qui avail des chaines aux chevilles (Alain Stanke, 1981,1988)), and They Won't Demolish Me! (Anansi, 1974) (Le Deux-millieme etage (Les Editions du jour, 1973; Alain Stanke, 1983)).

In spite of a low budget and Helman's misgivings regarding her inexperience, the production is com­pletely captivating. The voice, visuality and visage of this writer of international repute hold the students - and us - in thrall as he discusses his stories, charac­ters, and source of inspiration. In his words, life is a knot of fun and tragedy. It is the writer's job to untangle that knot.

Claire Helman's first video is a worthy effort. Let's hope she is able to complete the planned companion piece to this work, which will be a video on Sheila Fischman and the role and responsibility of the translator.

Frances Daw Bergles, Saskatoon Public Library, Saskatoon, Sask.
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