Caroline Monnet, a 30-year-old French Canadian and Algonquin multidisciplinary artist and filmmaker from Quebec, is the first First Nations filmmaker selected for the Cinefondation Residency of the Cannes film Festival in Paris, France. The Paris Cinefondation Cannes Residency, is lauded as the most prestigious in the world.
“I am the first French Canadian to be chosen for the Cannes film festival residency,” Monnet told ICMN. “So being selected as a Native / First Nations Canadian woman is source of pride.”
“It is a tough selection, as we have a huge demand, and we only chose six candidates on 300 applications from all over the world”, explains the program’s director, Georges Goldenstern. “Being a fellow of the Cinefondation opens doors internationally, as it is a prestigious award.”
Born in Canada to an Algonquin mother and a French father, Monnet decided to focus on art and film after studying sociology and communication in Canada and Spain. She produced her first movie Ikwe (‘women’ in Algonquin), in 2009. .
She spoke with Indian Country Today to share her experience about her Paris stay at the Cinefondation Residency and her thoughts on being selected for the prestigious Cannes Residency.
Why did you chose the Cannes residency?
It is the most competitive, and prestigious in the world, and it lasts four months. It’s been a real luxury to focus on writing, while living with six other selected filmmakers.
What is the movie you are working on at the Cannes Residency?
Bootlegger addresses alcohol trafficking on an Algonquin community in the north of Quebec today; the actors will be Algonquin, as it will be shot in French. We are already a bit into the Cannes film festival and Cannes is the first place we want to show our movie.
Do you introduce yourself as a French Canadian Native?
In Quebec, we are in double solitude, as we are more isolated, and marginalized; and we lack the organization and the networking of the Anglophone Canada. I define myself as Algonquin, and Quebecois. I was sent to Bretagne by my parents since childhood, so my link to France is related to that area. I am bilingual, I speak French, English; and Algonquin like a two-year-old! My grandfather went to the residential schools, so that topic was taboo, and because of the shame, they did not raise my mother in the Native culture; she went to a public school. I did not grow up in a community, so I am trying to re-appropriate this culture, as my mother could not do it, out of respect for her parents.But my generation is proud to be Native, and we are breaking this cycle.
Is there a rising number of Native women in the movie industry?
Yes; women filmmakers, producers, are very present among Natives, and at key places in Canada. Women’s presence in Native movie is obvious, as we come from a matriarchal society, where women take decisions; so, it is natural that they would transmit a revitalized vision of history. Also, we receive many financial supports: I made my first movies with scholarships.
And your work focus on Native women. What are the main problems in Canada?
Being a Native woman, in the last 10 years, was hard: well over 2,000 women have disappeared, were murdered, without any investigation. Policemen have raped women in Val d’Or. Then poverty, violence, abuse in the communities, access to education. The last government did not recognize Native rights: under the Native laws, a woman marrying a non-Native lost her Native status, like my mother, who got it back in 1985. Native women are the most discriminated in Canada.
How does art influence your movies?
Sometimes, you cannot express certain issues with movies; like genocide, or feminicide. So, sculpture is better, as it is more physical; but it is not conscious, it comes out while I am doing the research.
So, how is Paris and the Cannes residency?
Fantastic: our group meets so many people, we watch movies together. We have been going to meetings with French film institutions, filmmakers and museum curators. I love Paris: it is diverse, alive, vibrant, and there is so much culture. I love walking and looking at the architecture. There is so much history, it is inspiring. Everything is here, the visual arts, movies. It is an incredible meeting place, it brought me a lot of inspiration.
In your opinion, what is the perception of a Native woman?
It is an exotic concept that fascinates people. Native culture is romanticized and folkloric. Sometimes I hear, ‘you don’t look Native.’ Those prejudices come from movies and books. So I keep updating people on Native realities.
What do you hope to share through your work and the Cannes residency?
My artistic work addresses identity. As a Native woman in Canada, that often equates to political action.
I want to represent my people in an authentic way, from inside, far from prejudices and victimization, to show a modern, intense, strong people, with their own problems. It is important to not be part only of collective exhibitions of Native artists, but to show as artists, that though we happen to be Native, we are also contemporary artists. Our movies do not have to be limited to Native selections, or Native festivals. They should appear in general selections, and be considered at the same level than anyone else’s productions.
For more information on Caroline Monnet, visit www.carolinemonnet.ca