It’s 7 p.m. and people are buzzing on the third floor of a building in Villeray that hosts taekwondo classes and samba workshops. The doors of the La Cenne film club have just opened, and participants are already gathering near the popcorn machine.
Born from a desire to promote Quebec films which have a short theatrical life, the film club has been offering low-cost screenings since 2022 accompanied by discussions with the creators of the films. “More daring, or more cutting-edge films, don’t have the time to find their audience otherwise,” explains Alexandre Leblanc, filmmaker, who is part of the organizing committee of the event with, among others, his colleagues Abeille Tard and Alain Knight.
All three work in the field of cinema and their goal is to allow the less initiated to appreciate feature films. “It’s a change from festivals, where we find ourselves among peers who know this. There, sometimes there are people who have not even necessarily heard of the films that we are showing,” illustrates Abeille Tard.
“People become fond of the artist’s approach and that greatly influences their perspective,” adds his colleague Alexandre, who specifies that the selection of films is guided by a few principles, including parity and the fact of not having benefited from a big promotional machine.
Madeleine Poisson and Pierre Roberge, a couple of regulars, are absent this evening, to their great dismay. It’s COVID-19’s fault. The friendly duo was still enthusiastic about meeting us virtually to chat about their experience at the La Cenne film club, which they have been attending since its beginnings.
The presence of film artisans and the possibility of exchanging with them are the great strength of this initiative, according to Pierre Roberge, under the charm of the place which reminds him of his CEGEP years and the circles of film buffs he frequented at one time. certain era. “A creaking floor, I find that reassuring,” he says.
“There is perhaps one film in two [seen at La Cenne] which would have left us perplexed, which we would not have understood. These are sometimes works that are more difficult to access and it’s truly incredible what opportunities that give. For us, it was very beneficial,” explains Pierre Roberge.
Among the films discovered at La Cenne, Madeleine Poisson cites Kuessipan, by Myriam Verreault, which “capsized her heart”, and Souterrain, by Sophie Dupuis. During the screening of the latter, the trained teacher was “transported” thanks to the presence of the director’s mother, who came to talk about her reality as a nurse in the mines of Abitibi, an industry at the heart feature-length fiction film.
If the exchange with the filmmakers is a profitable added value, so is the exchange with the other participants. This is what is at the heart of the approach of Sayeed Devraj-Kizuk, who organizes and runs the Ciné-club international de Montréal, bringing together people from all walks of life on Sunday evenings at the Anticafé, rue Sainte-Catherine. The initiative of the adopted Montrealer, who arrived from Alberta in 2019, was above all motivated by an observation: several films that he today considers among his favorites are feature films that he initially had difficulty making. understand – before exchanging with other film buffs.
“When I started watching films in the presence of other people, I realized that a group discussing has a much greater capacity for observation, understanding and interpretation than I have alone,” he explains.
During the evening spent in the company of the dozen curious people gathered at Sayeed’s invitation, the impact of these discussions seemed unequivocal. The 2015 French-Indian drama Maasan was on the menu, a suggestion from participant Garveen Dang, of Indian origin. After watching the film attentively, those present talked for almost an hour. The narrative qualities of the feature film were discussed as well as the many social themes and, more broadly, repression and the caste system in India.
Alice Guérin La Flèche, who teaches French online every day and whose Anticafé is the shared work space, participates assiduously in the International Ciné-club. According to her, it is essential to “facilitate social encounters, especially since the pandemic”, and cinema is a particularly unifying art.
The pleasure of sharing a passion with loved ones also explains the appetite of moviegoers for this type of evening. Charles Gourde, a cinema graduate at the University of Montreal, is one of those who likes to gather around a projector. He regularly brings together a handful of friends to watch Asian films, a type of cinema that they particularly like.
When we visit his informal film club, in the living room of a three and a half apartment in the Rosemont district, Charles Gourde receives his former classmates Charles-Olivier Gendron and Yuan Zha. What are we watching tonight? “Red Sorghum, a Chinese classic from the 1980s, and after that, Drunken Master, an action film with Jackie Chan,” the host of the evening announces. “It gives you an idea of the range of works you can view,” he says with a laugh.
The friends are lucky to be able to count on the presence of Yuan, born in China, who can deepen the cultural context of the work and punctuate the projection with details on the traditions and rituals represented. Their meetings sometimes even have a culinary aspect, because he sometimes concocts traditional Chinese dishes to enjoy in front of the film.
The credits for Red Sorghum have barely finished, Charles, Yuan and Charles-Olivier are already engaged in a lively discussion on the challenges of watching films with subtitles, the particularities of Chinese cinema, but also on coloring techniques, “very progress for 1987”, according to them.
“We always discuss after viewing, but we don’t try to dissect the film in a pragmatic way,” explains Charles Gourde. We jump from cock to donkey talking about our general impressions, what we liked and what we didn’t like. »
The impetuosity of their interventions leaves no doubt: we are dealing with enthusiasts… who are already looking forward to the next discovery.