27 January 2021
For each of the features in competition, IFFR asked a critic, writer, academic or programmer to write a short reflection in a personal capacity. The resulting series of ‘Appreciations’ aims to encourage viewers − and filmmakers − at a time when there is no physical festival. Samy Benammar shines a light on Archipel.
Felix Dufour-Laperrière continues the journey that he started in his previous animation feature, Ville Neuve (2019), inviting us to cruise the troubled waters of the Saint Lawrence River, whose currents evoke both the geography and history − and archives and fantasies − of a territory. Blurring the boundaries between dream and documentary, the story of Archipel follows the islands that dot the river. These become a pretext for an anthology of disparate images, where archival footage and animation collide. These visual eddies − carrying us from one atmosphere to another, from a photograph to an ink stain − constantly signal to us that historical facts are not immutable, but rather are other malleable narratives subject to interpretation. And so the voices of Florence Blain Mbaye, Joséphine Bacon and Mattis Savard-Verhoeven, more in poetic than documentary form, embody the words of the filmmaker to prove that Québec is the place of unparalleled diversity.
Navigating these meanders, the text seems to make images emerge as much as it comments on them. The result is a strange dialogue where we cannot tell if it is the discourse that causes the islands to appear, or the opposite. At every stop, archival footage and 1950s newsreels commentary confront the floating gaze of our helmswoman, who adamantly refuses to let her country’s past be told by another. One that is necessarily steeped in violence, because Felix Dufour-Laperrière does not allow himself to ignore past and present mistakes: genocidal colonisation and aborted revolutions, excessive industrialisation and mindless exploitation of resources. But these subtle criticisms adopt the tone of a silken rebellion that tends to give way to the beauty of the shorelines and the diversity of the individuals who inhabit them. This idea finds a symbolic echo in the visual treatment, which is as masterful as it is disordered. Each new sequence transforms the image with a new brushstroke that reflects the collective dimension of Archipel’s animation process.
In the opening, a male voice asserts “You do not exist” – to which the female narrator, innocent and disobedient, counters “Not true”. It is not true, Quebec exists and Archipel acknowledges its downfall the better to celebrate a pluralistic identity at the convergence of all these voices that refuse to disappear.
Samy Benammar is a filmmaker and film journalist who has published for the online film journal Offscreen.
‘Appreciations’ aims to encourage viewers − and filmmakers − at a time when there is no physical festival. Discover more short reflections on the features in competition.