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A Local Director Found A Totally Unique Way To Depict Right-Wing Extremism In Quebec

His short film qualified for an Oscar and has won dozens of major awards.
A Local Director Found A Totally Unique Way To Depict Right-Wing Extremism In Quebec

Montrealer Pier-Philippe Chevigny specializes in depicting real-life social issues on screen. His latest short film, Rebel, is no exception. It tackles the rise of right-wing extremism in Quebec in a unique way — as seen through the eyes of a child. 

Rebel has made it into 90 international film festivals, such as TIFF, Busan, and Vladivostok. It won 23 awards, including the Golden Owl Award at Tirana International Film festival, which led to it being long-listed for an Academy Award nomination

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While it didn't make the shortlist, the 15-minute film is available on YouTube and worth watching — especially if you, like Chevigny, have noticed an increase in ultranationalist groups popping up in the province over the past few years. 

He used Soldiers of Odin, Storm Alliance and La Meute as examples, and said he was inspired by a photo of a six- or seven-year-old boy waving a La Meute flag at a demonstration.

"That kid doesn't understand the politics behind all of this, he's just following his parents," said Chevigny.

"I thought that would be an interesting idea ... to tell the story through the eyes of someone who was kind of oblivious to what's going on around him. And then he gets to witness something that triggers his understanding." 

Chevigny said he used a "nervous handheld camera, always sticking really close to the boy's point of view" at the beginning of the film to signify a lack of awareness.

"As the story progresses, it becomes much more edited ... so the idea was to have the audience go through that same process of having that moment of realization," he said.

What stands out about the film is its nuance. No one is entirely good or bad. The extremist characters are multi-dimensional.

"That was a result of my research. I started following these groups on social media, and I realized they were not the neo-nazis I was expecting them to be. They were everyday normal people ... they were actually family people," Chevigny said. 

"It's not surprising to see neo-nazi skinheads march against immigration, but it's very worrying when you see everyday normal people getting sucked into these ideologies. And that's the part that I wanted to raise awareness about."

Rebel has about 20-30 festivals to go. But Chevigny is already planning his next project.

He told MTL Blog he just got the green light from funders to make his first feature film about the exploitation of Latin American workers in Quebec's farming industry, which is set to start shooting this summer.