The Jutra is the French-Canadian equivalent of the Oscars and is intended to celebrate all aspects of French-Canadian cinema, which happens to be a thriving industry in Quebec.
It was named for Claude Jutra, one of Quebec’s most celebrated filmmakers who died in 1986 under tragic circumstances. Having been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the early 1980s, Jutra took his own life by jumping into the St. Lawrence River. His body was recovered five months later. Jutra had studied to be a physician and knew full well the devastating impact this disease would have on his life.
Amongst Anglophone speakers, he is probably best remembered for the movie “Mon Oncle Antoine” (“My Uncle Anthony”), which is widely considered to be not only Quebec’s greatest film, but Canada’s as well.
The Jutra was launched in 1999 to honor his memory and to honor French-Canadian film talent.
This year, the film “Polytechnique” won the most awards, including one for best director for Denis Villeneuve. “Polytechnique” was inspired by the mass murder of female students that took place in 1989 in Montreal, in the school of the same name.
However, the main award for best film went to writer, director, star wunderkind Xavier Nolan for his film “J’ai Tue Ma Mere” (aka “I Killed My Mother”). Dolan wrote the film at the tender age of 17 and after a fairly prestigious turn at the Cannes Film Festival, the movie went on to win numerous accolades worldwide. (See our review here.)
What is most interesting about the Quebec film scene is its effervescence and creativity. In addition, what guarantees its success is the fact that the French-Canadian moviegoer is an avid consumer of its own cinema, something Anglophone Canada can only watch with envy and hope to emulate with its own less than popular movies.
Quebecois cinema has managed to thrive even while screens continue to still be saturated with mostly American productions and the odd French import. It truly is a remarkable accomplishment and speaks to the deep connection and attachment French-Canadians have to their own culture.
It’s unfortunate that the mostly in-built resistance to watching subtitled movies has prevented films from that province to be justly appreciated in the United States and are probably only ever shown in the context of a film festival. The latter criticism is equally applicable to the rest of Canada as a whole.
For those of you interested in finding out more about the Jutra and French-Canadian cinema, there are ample resources online, most of them only a mouse click away. Many of the films are a must see for true cinephiles or for budding “connoisseurs” wishing to expand their film palette.
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