When I was three years old, my father taught me, “Comment allez-vous?” and other proper French sentences. I’ve only recently learned that rarely would an adult use dialogue this formal. However, it instilled in me a love of the French language and culture. While not at all fluent in French, I’ve always wanted to live in a French speaking country.
When the opportunity arose, I welcomed spending much of the last year in Quebec. I love both Montreal and Quebec City, and ended up living in the smaller of the two, Quebec City. More on the differences on the cities later.
I found making my way a little harder than I expected at first. I love meeting new people, and moved often growing up, so I had high expectations. I was discouraged my first two full months there, as I thought I’d never have a meaningful conversation again with my level of French. Plus winter was coming, and I was sure if I didn’t make any friends before the snow, I’d have a lonely winter.
Fortunately, after the holidays, I started connecting with the small but tight knit Anglophone community. As I continued to show up at the occasional art opening, I met a couple gallery owners. At an opening at Gallerie Trois in January, I noticed a slight buzz about the American girl at the opening. This was a first. I met two French-Canadian girls that night, who both spoke English, and we connected right away. From there, I felt more hopeful.
I’d been observing the art scene of Quebec City, and taking meetings when I could. The Quebec Delegate in Atlanta connected me with someone at the Counseil des Arts and Lettres Quebec (CALQ). I’d been interested in exhibits at the Musee National des Beaux-Arts Quebec (MNBAQ). And I was especially curious about the biennale to be held in the winter. Montreal has a biennale (more later), and so does Quebec City, Manif d’Arte.
My new found French Canadian girlfriends invited me to a film screening at MNBAQ in March. I’d seen the event on the museum website, and was intrigued by the title, Stealing Alice. When they suggested I accompany them, they said I should hurry and get my ticket. Later I found it sold out, and people were surprised I’d scored a ticket.
I was happy to have an event at the museum with friends in Quebec, like I often had at home in Atlanta. So my main expectation was to enjoy a little time with friends, an added bonus being in the art museum.
The theater was packed, so we sat fairly close to the front. But as the film began, I was blown away by the cinematography. What a beautiful film! The dialogue was a kind of poetry. Alice was an art dealer who stole paintings, but it wasn’t a tight plot. We never found out how she stole them… possibly we found out why. Definitely we were transported to Quebec, to the majesty of Canadian mountains and landscapes.. And so much more.. To the dialogue of French, Inuit, Italian and English. To the culture and wisdom of a native mother, Quebecois father, Italian friend. I don’t want to spoil any more.
Afterwards, the artist Marc Seguin answered questions and talked about the film. My immediate thought was I wanted more people to see it, I wanted to know if it would show in the US. I posed my thought to my friend, and she said, “You know you can go ask Marc.” So I did.