You may have heard that Xavier Dolan’s latest film won three César awards and the Grand Prize at Cannes. On the morning of Saturday March 25th however, the 6th annual Prix Collegial du Cinema Quebecois (PCCQ) was surprisingly awarded to Manoir despite competing against four other better known films including Dolan’s. The kicker is that Vanier College was partially responsible for Dolan’s loss.
The PCCQ is designed to get many CÉGEP students to see Quebec films followed by discussions and debates in order to heighten their cinematic culture, criticism, and appreciation of the medium. Every year five films are nominated (this year’s nominations were Avant les Rues, Juste la Fin du Monde, Les Mauvais Herbes, Prank, and Manoir) and are shown to curious students of participating CÉGEPs. One student representative from each CÉGEPs is chosen to attend national deliberations in order to decide which of the five films is the best. Vanier College is one of the 55 schools who participates in this event.
This year, Computer Science Technology student Jeremiah Tiongson was chosen to represent Vanier’s opinions on the five films. “This prize is not as prestigious as something from Cannes”, he remarked, “but it’s really important because it’s about getting students together to talk about movies”. Tiongson has grown fond of the PCCQ as this is the second year he participates in watching and discussing all five films.
Vanier’s vote was likely for Louis Bélanger’s dramatic comedy Les Mauvais Herbes as it was the most acclaimed film of the participating students although Manoir was also praised. However, it was clear that there was a lot of love for Dolan’s film in other CÉGEPs. “It wasn’t what I expected” Tiongson replied, “I thought people were going to be biased towards Xavier Dolan, but I’m really happy that [Manoir] won”.
Since the awards kicked off in January, it was clear that the little documentary was the underdog. The film was only screened in one theatre in Montreal upon its release and hadn’t found a distributor before receiving the award. The directors Martin Fournier and Pier-Luc Latulippe stated (originally in French) “It’s a little film we made with a little camera, a little crew and little money”. The film follows the lives of released psychiatric patients living in a big residential building until that very “manoir” is destroyed. The movie was filmed over a period of eight years which is a serious commitment to a project.
Tiongson claims that he learned to more deeply analyse and criticise as well as having a greater appreciation of films thanks to the PCCQ. “When you analyse a movie, you analyse the story, the screenplay, the visuals, the sound etc” he explained. This more detailed way of art analysis is something that can be hard to obtain without attending a film class but the PCCQ was enough to teach this to its participating students.
The announcement of Manoir’s victory took place at the “Café Cinéma” event at Le Cheval Blanc where all representatives and many others came to see the directors speak about their craft. “That’s the most important part of this event”, Tiongson said with excitement, “that’s when the student meets the masters”. The filmmakers professionally spoke as they had much to say about the filmmaking process and the current state of Quebec Cinema.
More and more students from an increasing number of CÉGEPs start to participate in this event which is why Vanier is hopping that more students join next year. “Even if you’re not a cinephile, you’re really going to enjoy it.” Tiongson assures, “Cinema itself is the 7th art, it brings people together, and you grow by debating and analysing movies”. Daniel Gosselin, Vanier’s teacher representent for the PCCQ, hopes to create a more accessible schedule next year where one film could be screened every week rather than all five in one weekend.
As for the two winning filmmakers, they are still surprised of their victory and very grateful that their small film will likely benefit from the award as it will be seen by more people. And of course, as Latulippe stated on Saturday: “With Xavier Dolan [nominated], we can say that we beat him at least once”.
Written By: Arnaud Weissenburger
*Photo of Martin Fournier (left) and Pier-Luc Latulippe (right)