A Quebec short film that shines a light on anti-immigration extremism in the province has made it into the Oscar conversation.
Pier-Philippe Chevigny’s Rebel grabs the audience’s attention by addressing the topic through the eyes of a child.
“I thought it would be interesting to tell the story of right-wing extremism in Quebec, but through the eyes of a child who doesn’t understand. He will just witness something that triggers his understanding,” Chevigny explained in an interview.
The 32-year-old Montreal filmmaker says he was inspired to make Rebel after seeing news footage of a 2017 protest in Quebec City. Anti-immigration group La Meute was demonstrating against Islam, Sharia Law, and illegal immigration.
“The next morning, one of the newspapers had for its front page the picture of a six- or seven-year-old boy who was waving a flag with the La Meute logo on it,” Chevigny recalled.
“I thought to myself, ‘That kid doesn’t understand the politics behind it. He’s just following his parents.'”
After auditioning 40 young boys, now 10-year-old Edouard B. Larocque won the part.
“A lot of times with child actors, you can tell, like their parents are pushing them, they don’t really want to be there. With Edouard, what was really cool is that we saw he was really genuinely enthusiastic, like he walked in the room and shook everybody’s hands,” said Chevigny.
“You could tell that he wanted to work.”
It’s through Larocque’s character Alex’s eyes that the viewer experiences members of an extremist group getting together to patrol the woods looking for illegal immigrants.
“It’s like it’s some kind of family-friendly outing, and that just doesn’t make any sense to me at all. I want to be able to kind of express that contrast. It’s almost absurd, like it’s almost a caricature,” Chevigny explained.
The film reaches an uncomfortable climax, and Larocque’s character starts to realize what’s happening around him is wrong.
“‘The idea is to tell Quebecers to stop doing that. Be welcoming to immigrants, take care of them,” the 10-year-old told Global News.
“To my knowledge, anyway, there are no militia groups hunting migrants at the border. What I’ve tried to say with the film is maybe it could happen a few years down the road if we let this happen,” said Chevigny.
Rebel has been shown at over 100 film festivals around the world, and has won multiple awards. One award at the Tirana International Film Festival got the film into the Oscar conversation.
“Winning the Oscar qualifying award in Tirana International Film Festival, that’s like a big deal. About 100 or 150 short films a year out of the 6,000 short films that are going around at festivals will get that kind of qualification,” said Chevigny.
Because of the accolade received at Tirana, Rebel is on the long list to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film.
“The voting is happening right now and we’ll see what happens. Whatever happens, I’m really happy with the way the film turned out,” Chevigny told Global News.
The filmmaker is does not actually think he will win an Oscar, calling it a “long shot” with the many excellent films he’s competing against that have had success at bigger festivals. The film’s child star, however, is still holding out hope.
“My dream is to go to the Oscars,” said Edouard B. Larocque.