Archipelago is a documentary that mixes archival footage with animation to tell the story of the land along the St. Lawrence river.
Archipelago is available to stream across Canada until May 9. Get tickets to Archipelago here.
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Québécois animator Félix Dufour-Laperrière makes his first foray into documentary filmmaking with Archipelago, which mixes archival footage with animation to tell the story of the land along the St. Lawrence River. Working from a documentary about the St. Lawrence from the 1940s, which itself is an inaccurate depiction of the region at the time, Dufour-Laperrière annotates, paints over, and plays with the footage, and in turn, our sense of the history of the land.
Our guide through the territory is a woman who represents the river, an animated outline whose body is made up of live action footage of the river. She’s in conversation with a man, talking about the land, its twists and turns and islands, and how it’s changed over time. Throughout the film, there’s a sense of the impermanence of the people who live on the land: a group of dancers from the archival footage are animated into ghost-like figures; a collection of animated people rise up from the river and into the heavens.
Although the film is told mostly from a French settler perspective, the film does acknowledge the Indigenous Peoples who were there first. Innu poet Joséphine Bacon interrupts the narrative with her poem about the land, in Innu-aimun, as a reminder that our entrenched narratives about history tend to ignore the presence of Indigenous Peoples. Throughout, Dufour-Laperrière asks us to question how we tell the story of our land, how much that story is told by the dominant culture, and how that story changes over time as the culture itself changes.
Working with twelve different animators in an improvisatory style — no storyboards or detailed plans were used — allows Dufour-Laperrière to create an always inventive and surprising visual style. Each stop we make along the St. Lawrence unlocks secrets of the land and its people, sometimes with small, personal stories, and sometimes, with stories of a broader community.
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