Best Director Short Film - Best Director Award, November 2020
Pier-Philippe Chevigny is a filmmaker from Montreal, Quebec. His films share a common signature, combining sociopolitical subject matter with suspenseful writing and intense, often frantic camerawork. After premiering at TIFF, his latest short REBEL, about the rise of right-wing extremism in Quebec, was a resounding success, selected at over 60 festivals and winning numerous accolades including the Oscar-qualifying award for Best Short Film at Tirana. His feature-length script ARSENAL, about police brutality against LGBTQ+ activists, was selected as a finalist to SFFILM's prestigious Rainin Grant. He is set to direct his first feature RICHELIEU in 2021.
1. Your film REBEL has winner a in category Best Director Short Film. How was the film inspired?
I was interested in the recent rise of right-wing extremism in Quebec, which is the French part of Canada. Historically, Quebec has always been a very left-leaning province: in fact, it still is to this day the most left-wing state in North America. But for a few years now, we've seen a pretty constant drift towards the right, and we've also seen the arrival of multiple right-wing militia groups (like La Meute, Storm Alliance, Soldiers of Odin).
That whole phenomenon had been on the rise for nearly a decade now, but it exploded in 2017 when the US suspended the TPS (Temporary Protected Status) for migrants, which allowed them to live and work in the States while waiting for their refugee status to be confirmed. That created a migrant surge and from 2017 to 2020, an estimated 40 000 people fled the US to avoid deportation and crossed the border "illegally" into Quebec, literally by walking across. That, in turn, has ignited the fires of extremism, and these groups started becoming really active, doing patrols in multicultural neighborhoods, holding demonstrations in cities and at the border.
I was researching the topic when, the following day of a big demonstration in Quebec City, I saw an article by local newspaper La Presse that had the photo of a young boy holding a flag with La Meute's logo on it. I thought to myself: "that kid doesn't understand what the politics are behind all of this, he is just following his parents". I thought that would be an interesting starting point to tell a story.
2. Tell us about your background and when did you decide to become a filmmaker?
I grew up in a modest family, with a father that worked in the film industry. I was always interested in story telling, and as a student I was very involved politically. Filmmaking then kind of became the point where storytelling and politics met. I always knew I wanted to become a director, but my exact process came about in college.
3. Films that inspired you to become a filmmaker?
I think L'Acadie l'Acadie?!?, a documentary from legendary filmmakers Pierre Perrault and Michel Brault, is probably the one that shook me the most. It's about a bunch of french-Canadian University students in New Brunswick who fight for bilingualism. It remains to this day one of my favorite films, and one that has defined my approach to film.
4. Who is your biggest influence?
The most obvious influence on what I do is probably the Dardenne Brothers. I took a lot from Abbas Kiarostami also, I think that's quite obvious in REBEL, if you compare it to Where is the friend's home.
5. If you could work with anyone in the world, who would that person be?
I'd say Trent Reznor, which is ironic because I don't even use music in my films... But for him, I'd make an exception!
6. The one person who has truly believed in you throughout your career.
Geneviève Gosselin-G., my producer and my partner in life. She deserves just as much credit on my films as I do, as she is always involved from the very beginning.
7. What was the most important lesson you had to learn as filmmaker?
Filmmaking is a team effort, you don't have to know everything, you can rely on your teammates: often the best ideas comes when you open yourself to external input.
8. The project(s) you're most proud of...
REBEL is one I'm especially proud of because I didn't have any expectations going in. I didn't think it would successful, but it turned out it worked really well. In fact, it's by far the most successful film I've made so far, with over 70 festival selections and 15 awards. Since we won the Oscar-qualifying award in Tirana, it's been receiving more and more attention, which brings the spotlight to the migrant crisis and the dangers of right-wing extremism, which is exactly why I make movies.
9. Your next projects?
I am currently developing a feature film project named RICHELIEU, on the exploitation of latin American workers in Quebec. Much like REBEL, it's inspired by a real-life social issue, and relied on an intensive research process. The film was greenlit by Quebec film funds and we'll be shooting in the summer of 2021.