Youth I

film 4 of 4

Éloge de Chiac

Film Review by Dean Duncan May 31, 2015

Who ever thinks of Acadians, of French speakers in New Brunswick, let alone of their obscure Chiac language? Precisely the problem! And what reproof! After this artless, subject-led little assembly, Acadians, in New Brunswick, struggling to figure out the place of their linguistic tradition, suddenly emerge as the most important people in the world.

Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s Michel Brault, the director of this film, provided the photographic agility/artistry that practically made cinéma verité possible (see Chronicle of a Summer, q.v.). Here you see one of Brault’s early ’60s collaborators, the great anthropologist-filmmaker Jean Rouch, returning that favour. Art is secondary here, or maybe it doesn’t even matter. Go, listen, learn. The result is resonant in a way that is citizenly, ethical and even religious.

The teacher that they interview at the beginning is our way in, but it’s the kids that are so amazing. What passion! What clarity of thought and feeling! So proud, so subtle, and so movingly articulate! Wow.  They’re practically archetypal, in that they so nicely represent this cultural type or that social pattern. But they’re also completely individualized.  At the end, when Brault has them look at the camera and tell us they’re names, it is like the writing on the wall. Of course, René Lévesque …