Document of the week | The most beautiful province: an unusual view of Quebec

Avec sa série La plus belle province, le documentariste Guillaume Sylvestre pose un regard parfois caustique sur des communautés et des symboles québécois. Il s’autorise même un épisode sur les Français de Montréal en empruntant les codes du documentaire animalier…

Publié à 10h00

Alexandre Vigneault

Alexandre Vigneault
La Presse

Il y a quelques années, Guillaume Sylvestre a signé un documentaire sur un camping de multimillionnaires québécois en Floride. Le prix du paradis misait sur une narration neutre de Denys Arcand et la musique de Mozart qui, par effet de contraste, soulignaient subtilement ce qu’il y avait de, disons, « particulier » dans cet environnement. « On s’est dit [mon producteur et moi] that this type of treatment has something to do for Quebec,” he explains.

That “something” returns in the form of a four-part documentary series entitled The most beautiful province, aired on the Vrai platform, which sometimes takes a whimsical look at Quebec. “The idea is to dive into different worlds and look under the skirts of our society, into microcosms that can just as easily be close to home, like the French in Plateau-Mont-Royal or the Aluminerie Alouette in the Sept Islands, to create one Kind of a constellation of what Quebec is today,” explains the director.


Director Guillaume Sylvestre offers the documentary series The most beautiful province.

The discoveries are made through the images, the interviews and the always neutral but sometimes scathing narration by Denys Arcand, who sometimes says what the film otherwise doesn’t say. That, for example, one of the few entertainments in Shefferville is still “rolling”. pick up to nowhere”. Or that products from Aluminerie Alouette can be found in Teslas and beer cans as well as in vegan biscuit packaging.

unknown worlds

What we discover above all are unimagined universes. The smelter of Sept-Îles at the heart of the first episode is a world unto itself, populated by enthusiastic non-union workers (“They’re almost prouder to work at Alouette than they are Quebecers,” notes the director) and gargantuan ones Machines whose ballet is shown on the screen to classical music. The next is about Shefferville, a former mining town surviving thanks to the stubbornness of the Innu on the Labrador border.

In particular, we explore the small village in the north through the eyes of two “southern” Québecians who went to work there for a few months and talk about their not always easy integration. “Time flies and it’s going to be very moving,” says the director. In particular, he thinks of a scene in which an aboriginal woman tells her friend that her hair is white – namely, finer than that of the Innu. “It’s no longer the story of Aboriginal people and white people, but of two young women who laugh together and have become very good friends,” says Guillaume Sylvestre. I thought it was beautiful, although the Shefferville area can be rough at first. »

A “wildlife documentary”

The other two episodes of the series are interested in Beauce (in his characters of multi-millionaire entrepreneurs as in his libertarian spirit) and in the French of Montreal. This episode is shaping up to be the scariest of the series.

We treated this film as if we were following lions through the seasons on the savannah. So we follow the French from Montreal who discovers his environment and puts down roots in Quebec.

Guillaume Sylvestre, Director

Knowing full well that he pushed a bit in this episode, he justifies himself with the words “Whoever likes well punishes well”. “We can’t generalize, but they have such an idealized image of Quebec: wide open spaces, nice people, etc. And they talk about France as if they had just left Yemen, Guillaume Sylvestre believes. Through her eyes we see ourselves so idealized that it becomes Walt Disney. And after a few years they are disappointed, the rose-colored glasses begin to change color. »

Whether it’s this episode or the others, the director insists he’s never there “to laugh at the world.” Sometimes we catch his smirk, but we don’t feel any judgment in his eyes, at least in the two episodes we watched. “I’m not here to laugh at anyone, but if there’s someone who laughs at themselves or crosses the line until it becomes ridiculous or absurd, I won’t be afraid to bring it to screen,” says Guillaume Sylvestre once again. But I don’t add a layer when the scene speaks for itself. »

The most beautiful provincefrom Tuesday on the Vrai platform

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