What We Choose to Remember is a fabulous documentary which will resonate with every member of the anglophone community. Courtesy of our CSL Public Library, there will be a free screening in the Harold Greenspon Auditorium on Wed. January 18 (2 pm).
At a time when Quebec’s anglophone community is under constant threat by the CAQ government, Guy Rex Rodgers has come out with this extraordinary documentary which really puts our place in this province in perspective. Rodgers will be at the screening for a talk back with the audience afterwards.
In What We Choose To Remember, Rodgers makes it clear from the start how Quebec is a province of immigrants. Our ancestors’ country of origin, mother tongue and religion influenced Quebec’s history, politics and laws and when we arrive determines how welcome or marginalized, we feel in our chosen home.
Rodgers was born in Vancouver and raised in Australia. He is the founder of the English Language Arts Network (ELAN) and executive director there for 20 years. In 1980, the year of Quebec’s first referendum, he moved to Montreal to attend the National Theatre School of Canada. Not long after arriving he met his wife to be, a francophone Quebecoise, and the couple joined the ranks of many bilingual (and in several cases multi-lingual) households in Quebec.
The documentary is a truly objective view of the plight of anglos. Ironically it came to be when the Secrétariat aux relations avec les Québécois d’expression anglaise put out a call to anglophone organizations for projects that explored Quebec’s anglophone communities – the relationship with their home province and its official language – who better to take up the challenge.
I had a wonderful interview with Rodgers last spring when the film first came out to talk about the process of making the film, its evolution from a six-part video series to feature documentary, how he found the 60 immigrants or descendants of immigrants that he interviewed and the interesting, sometimes surprising, facts, reactions and insights he discovered along the way.
“Our first question was who to interview as anglo Quebecers,” Rodgers said. “Finally, we decided to do so via the different waves of immigration."
With the introduction of Bill 96 once again putting the language issue front and center, the documentary’s release was timely. “We believe that this film will resonate strongly with Quebec’s English- speaking community as well as the francophone majority,” said Rodgers. “It sheds a light on stories that have rarely been heard in public and is a celebration of people whose contribution to Quebec has been downplayed or ignored. It’s an open invitation to all Quebecers to reconsider ‘what we choose to remember’; a call to learn about and value each other’s heritage in the hopes of creating a more unified and inclusive Quebec for all.”
Rodgers emphasizes how Quebec is unique, being a linguistic island of French-speakers surrounded by an ocean of English-speakers. Its citizens are divided by different histories, sources of pride and grievances. Young people experience Quebec differently than seniors, who lived through decades of religious and linguistic conflict. Québécois living in the regions often see Montreal as a foreign metropolis. Quebec is increasingly the story of immigrants, the distinctly labelled Allophones, who think it is time for old-stock Francos and anglos to get over their long-lost wars of conquest to deal with the urgent problems of the 21st century. What We Choose to Remember explores the things that make Quebec so fascinating, frustrating and endearingly different.
Masks are encouraged at the screening.