(Images provided by the NFB)

When is it time to break the silence? Renée Blanchar’s documentary Le silence (The Silence, Ça Tourne Productions/NFB)
opening at Montreal’s Cinémathèque québécoise on September 24

Following an award-winning showing at the Rendez-vous Québec Cinéma, Renée Blanchar’s feature documentary Le silence (The Silence) will open in Montreal at the Cinémathèque québécoise on Friday, September 24, in its original French version. The film tackles a difficult topic—the sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests against young boys in francophone New Brunswick—with great sensitivity. Probing the root causes of the collective silence that paralyzed the affected communities for so many years, the veteran Acadian filmmaker offers an enlightened take on a human drama that’s playing out practically across the globe. Indeed, with pedophilia scandals making the news on a regular basis, the film underscores the unimaginable devastation left wherever such horrors may unfold, be it in Acadia, Quebec or elsewhere. Co-produced by Ça Tourne Productions and the NFB in association with Radio-Canada, Le silence is an urgent call-out to the humanity in each of us.

Blanchar confronts silence with truth to deliver a film that’s shattering, personal and necessary. Deeply rooted in her community, she had unknowingly come close to an abusive priest while shooting her first documentary, Vocation ménagère (1996), in Acadian parishes. This time, flanked by a seasoned team that included cinematographer Philippe Lavalette and sound designer Sylvain Bellemare (whose work on Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival won him an Oscar), the filmmaker went to meet the victims. The heartbreaking testimonials of men like Jean-Paul, Victor and Lowell vividly highlight how the ordeal of abuse destroys lives. Silenced for too long, their courageous decision to finally name their perpetrators brings with it hope for justice and healing.

About the film

Le silence by Renée Blanchar (106 min)

Co-produced by Ça Tourne Productions (Maryse Chapdelaine) and the NFB’s Canadian Francophonie Studio in Moncton (Christine Aubé), in collaboration with Radio-Canada

Awards: La Vague Léonard-Forest Award for Best Acadian Medium-length or Feature Film, FICFA 2020; Award for Best French-Canadian film, Rendez-vous Québec Cinéma 2021.

Why be silent about the most serious matters? Doesn’t silence perpetuate suffering? From the 1950s to the 1980s, Catholic priests sexually abused many young boys in the francophone towns of New Brunswick. These scandals only came to light when the victims were in their fifties and older, provoking shock and outrage in the media and the public. Why did the affected communities keep silent so long, preferring secrecy to justice and truth? Using their positions of influence to impose a “pious silence” on their parishioners, some authority figures essentially built a system of abuse that says as much about the oppression experienced by the Acadian population as it does about the blanket denials issued by the Catholic Church—all of which Quebecers can readily understand. Called to confront the power of this collective silence, veteran filmmaker Renée Blanchar meets with survivors in an attempt to untangle the deeply rooted reasons for this secrecy. With Le silence, she takes us as close as she can to the humanity of these broken men, revealing the multiple and far-reaching consequences of silence, not just for the communities affected, but for society as a whole.

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