ABOUT THE FILM
French is a unique documentary film. Unlike most documentaries,
it has found its present form not as general interest entertainment
or educational program for television or theater release,
but for the very people it documents, the Franco-Americans
of New England. It has been twenty-two years in the making,
beginning with an earlier film Si Je
(If I really understand
During this time, it has followed two families: one in Lewiston, Maine and the other in St. Georges, Quebec creating a window on how cultures survive and decline.
During the five years of filming that led to Revéil we showed Si Je comprends bien (If I really understand ) and films from Quebec and videotaped audience responses, which we edited and then showed back generating yet deeper emotional responses. This process helped sensitize us to core issues in our community and often became part of the film along with research and testimony we were able to discover as a result of this feedback-driven approach. As a result, Revéil has the distinction and privilege of having made useful discoveries that have been incorporated into the film. (See also section on Art, Culture, and Community Economic Development).
First, it discovered that an invisible culture is not necessarily dying; there is a deep yearning to live the culture in public again that is prevented by fear and a lack of contemporary tools.
Why would over one million New England French living next door to seven million of their Quebec brethren suddenly lose their language and find their culture invisible after having resisted "Melting Pot America" and preserved their heritage longer than most immigrant groups? The answer lies in the story of a campaign by Protestant elites to suppress the French Catholic religion that resulted in a locally resurgent Ku Klux Klan in New England giving states like Maine and Massachusetts more KKK members than any Southern state including Mississippi or Alabama. The film documents the rise of the KKK, their campaign of terror against the French, and its psychological effect on the French community resulting in invisibility and language loss.
After showing Quebec film, facilitating audience discussion and showing back edited video, the filmmaking process revealed that the French language many thought was lost to them from suppression during childhood may actually still be alive within them. We developed an operating hypothesis of a metaphorical "Brain Map" of a hard-wired first language intimately fused with early emotional experience. We then created an experimental language reacquisition program and followed people as they actually reclaimed their lost French.
And finally the documentary illustrates that culture changes because emergence and decline happen simultaneously. The film shows many instances of individuals making choices to live their culture in the present even as others in their families are letting it go. Whether it's a Franco-American family that welcomes new immigrants from French West Africa into their own family or young people reconnecting with their elders, or red-hot French-Canadian Dance music, Revéil is truly the story of the repression and renaissance of the French of New England.
For this reason, we are taking the film to audiences throughout New Englandmuch in the same way as we made the film. We're continuing to film response as people discover their culture, reclaim their language, and invent useful new ways to be French. And everyone is welcome, for there is a universal message to Revéil that applies to both older immigrant groups that suffer the loss of heritage culture and newer groups struggling to preserve their culture as they become new Americans. It's a message about diversity in a globalizing world and how to reverse cultural decline and renew heritage culture as a resource for New England as a region too long disconnected from its Canadian French roots.
"Awestruck. I never knew the story, the history, the depth of our culture and people.'
"I'm moved by the self-redemption of reawakening dormant parts of oneself."
"Outstanding production. Very motivational to save the heritage."
"The film showed a unity in feelings about being Franco-American - feelings that were deep and that were kept to oneself for many years."
"It got to me very deeply. I had to let the tears flow."
"The film is a relevant wonderful experience. These are my neighbors and I didn't know their culture."
"I'm not French, I'm Irish. I found your wonderful film
extremely motivational to track my own roots and share my
heritage with my family."