“I do not recognize my language, I do not recognize my family, I do not recognize our roots,” Claudette Dion confided this week with palpable emotion to Julie Snyder, who asked her to comment on the new film by French Valérie Lemercier , Aline, inspired by the life of Celine Dion. The godmother and sister of the Quebec diva was accompanied on the set of the Week of 4 Julie by his brother Michel, who shared his disappointment with the feature film. Claudette Dion was without appeal: “We pass for a gang by Bougon. […] I know their story, the cabin in Canada. I’m sorry, but in Charlemagne, we didn’t have a cabin. We felt particularly hurt by the representation of the matriarch Thérèse Dion, which she judged false, while the mourning of the family would not be “completely done”.
The Innu journalist and novelist Michel Jean, who was also present on the set, then intervened: “You have the impression that she [Valérie Lemercier] you caricature… ”Claudette Dion immediately nodded, the better to continue her well-felt criticism. The commentary passed quickly, but we saw a highlight there. Because if anyone can share the pain of not recognizing their language, their family, their roots in a work piloted by foreigners, without consent or consultation, it is Michel Jean. The author of Kukum and of Thiohti could only respond to the Dion family’s testimony with great empathy.
Of course, if the Dions’ disappointment in front of Valérie Lemercier’s clumsy film is just as real as the pain of many Indigenous people in front of the constant caricatures of their cultures, the contexts in which these creations are inscribed are not quite the same. same.
Imagine, for a moment, a world where Quebec filmmakers are almost systematically refused the funds necessary to create their own works and where the rare international representations of Quebec are produced in Paris. Lemercier’s bad accent and his caricature of a large family from a working-class background would then be received by a Quebec audience that has hardly ever seen itself on screen. The discontent at the film would very likely be increased tenfold, and the injury, amplified.
Now imagine that our television networks are controlled by the French and that the Dion family had to go to Paris to express their criticism. Imagine a Parisian Julie Snyder who would then have been a long-time friend of Valérie Lemercier, and not of the Dion family. We doubt that Claudette Dion could have confided in him, without being thrown eggs, in all candor: “She [Lemercier], she bought herself a trip, a bad person trip, on the back of Celine’s life. “
Let us imagine finally, in this same dystopia, that Valérie Lemercier reacts to criticism by posing as a holy martyr for artistic freedom and the right of actresses to embody everyone, without understanding what it represents, from France, to Quebec artists stripped of the means to tell their own story. Imagine that the reviews ofAline from the handful of Quebecers admitted in the French media are received as barbarism, and that the French star-system solidarises in mass around Lemercier to caricature the words of the Dion family and lend them a desire for censorship.
If this universe were ours, Aline could have been received in Quebec not as a simple film, but as the straw that breaks the camel’s back, the caricature too many, the symbol of a structural injustice that has lasted long enough. Aline would then have existed in a context similar to that of the debates on the freedom of creation and the appropriation of black and native cultures that have shaken Quebec in recent years.
Fortunately, the reality is very different from this dark fiction. Quebecers have a media infrastructure that is solid enough to have an important say in the reception of the film, and to denounce its flaws. We can criticize the relevance for a French woman to embody a Quebecer, while there is no shortage of talented Quebec actresses, without being treated as an enemy of the arts and civilization.
It is after all just a movie. Aline is only one representation among dozens of others of the Dion family, who can afford to stage themselves. The Quebec film and television industry is sufficiently developed so that ridiculous French caricatures do not colonize (no longer?) The daily lives of our children, to the point of affecting the image they have of themselves. and their language, their family and their roots.
The Dion family and the Franco-Quebec media ecosystem, certain to be heard, criticize Aline and denounce its faults calmly, calmly. One could say that it is because the artists, the critics and the French-Quebec public are more “civilized” than the wokes irascible who dared to say “no, thank you” to a cultural industry where we talk about them without them. This would be forgetting the profound difference between contexts, and the weight of structural exclusions on the reception of a work.
Let us summarize the matter in a simple theorem: the rarer the representations of X, the greater the responsibilities (artistic, academic, journalistic) of Y towards X.