John Walker and his film "Quebec My Country, Mon Pays"
When I saw this movie last year at the Montreal Documentary Festival depicting the director's and other Anglophones' strong sentiments for Quebec, it seemed to me as a case of unrequited love. Anglo Quebecers were here for many generations, but with the rise of nationalist feelings among the francophone majority and the ensuing enactment of legislation that severely restricted the use of English in the province, a large number of Anglophones made the decision to leave.They no longer felt welcome in the land where, even though, they have been born and grown up. That trend to leave is still on, in particular among the young— which is unfortunate, because that would be a loss for everyone involved: the ones who leave and the society that may lose one very significant component of its culture.
"Quebec my Country, Mon Pays," a film by John Walker that touches this sensitive issue is being released this coming week, and I had the chance to talk to the director about some of the premises of this documentary. Montreal Times: Tell us about this pain of leaving Quebec.
It is unsettling. Families are divided: there is no more of the regular celebrations together, Christmas, birthdays. It is the breaking-up of the family. It also brings an identity issue: Quebec was your place. If you leave, you don't have a place.
But then you left
One feels that there wasn't a future for you in the province.
And you had deep roots in the province
I come from a family with Irish and Scottish roots, which had been established in Quebec for some generations. But my identity was Anglophone (even though we were not English or AngloSaxon, ours was a linguistic and cultural definition). When I was 8, I felt that the French kids didn't like you. I was 11 when there were bombs placed in mailboxes. Serenity gave way to fear. MT Paradoxically, however, in the movie you mention that you actually voted PQ. How is that?
I respected and understood the demands of the French-speaking people. I also had an understanding of Quebec culture. I was voting for social justice.The cultural side of the question I understood. I also saw the situation in the 1960s when people were rebelling against oppression represented by the Church and American capitalism. Anglos were
considered as part of that condition against which people were rebelling.
Which again brings the issue of identity…
My grandma used to say "challenge half-truths" which for me is to crave for a real sense of history. Who am I? Celtic? Identity is a positive thing. But identity is a question that is always there.
MT: And in your case, judging for the many occasions in which the film shows the rural landscape of Quebec, that is also part of your view and your identity…
Yes. I feel a connection to the land, on my father's side, people were farmers. In "Quebec My Country, Mon Pays" those rural images are very specific.These are my memories.Above all, I also try to reflect my respect for the working people.That's my bond to Quebec, my country.
"Quebec My Country, Mon Pays" will be screened this Monday, June 19 a 6:30 at the Cinema du Parc (as part of Cinémagique series), and at Cinema Beaubien starting June 23.