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Argentinean-born filmmaker Andrés Livov says the idea of making a film that tells the story of adult immigrants learning French in Montreal came to him when he was sitting in one such class himself around 10 years ago.
“My experience was really special. I knew at the time it could be made into a film,” Livov told CIC News.
The project, however, took a few years to develop and mature. During that time, the “francization” of immigrants in Quebec developed into one of the most talked-about issues in the province.
“La langue est donc une histoire d’amour” (Language is a Love Story), which premiers October 11, offers a unique window into a French language class for adult immigrants at the William-Hingston Centre in Montreal.
In addition to raising public awareness about immigration issues, Andrés Livov’s film provides an opportunity to reflect on the way we relate to one another and the importance of interpersonal relationships for those who are learning to communicate in a language that is foreign to them.
At the centre of the film is Mrs Fulvie Loiseau, a passionate and sensitive teacher who has been working in the field for more than 15 years. An immigrant herself, she ensures that learning the language is about kindness, compassion and, above all, success.
The students she welcomes into her class are refugees, asylum seekers or temporary workers, more than half of whom are women.
In their countries of origin, many of those women were supported by their communities and depended on their families to meet their basic needs. In Quebec, they often find themselves without guidance and support.
Even before the shooting began, Livov knew that these women would play a prominent role in his film.
“In general, we don’t listen to these women very much, we don’t know their backgrounds very well. I really wanted to know where they came from. I wanted them to tell their stories,” Livov said.
“One of the women, who spoke good French and Arabic and could translate for the others, became my facilitator. She is the one who made the others talk.”
The women open up about their attachment to their country of origin and their desire to be accepted by their adopted country. The nature of the exchanges is sometimes comic, sometimes compelling, and never without intercultural misunderstandings.
Several scenes in the film show that prejudices persist, but that it is still possible to overcome them.
Mrs Loiseau is uncompromising on this point. She never misses a single opportunity to highlight the life experiences of her students and, if necessary, bring their views into line with their new socioeconomic and cultural reality.
“I don’t want a woman to tell me that she didn’t have a job in her country. You’re a nurse, psychologist, housewife … When you’re a housewife, you have all these jobs,” she exclaims in one scene.
The film reveals that, at the heart of language acquisition, is a desire to help others overcome mistrust.
Livov hopes this process of building trust will also apply outside of the film, as audiences reflect on their relationship with immigrants and on their portrayal in the media.
“I didn’t make this film for immigrants or for French-language teachers,” says the director, “they already know this reality.”
“I made this film for the general public, for the average man and woman. I wanted to connect them with immigrants learning a new language, create a gateway to this reality so that people could approach things from a different perspective.”
“La langue est donc une histoire d’amour” will show across Quebec in the coming weeks.
You can view the trailer of the film here.
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