[Review] ‘The Disturbing Absence’ is a great documentary about the lack of genre cinema made in Quebec

The province of Quebec, in Canada, is famous in the cinematic world for its dramatic finesse, winning an abundant amount of prizes throughout the years. However, it also has, at least a little, an aspect of its cinema dedicated to genre movies: horror, science-fiction, fantasy, etc. Why only “a little”, you ask? That is the question at hand in “L’inquiétante absence” (“The Disturbing Absence”), a Quebec-made documentary concerning the state of genre cinema in its own province which made its world premiere at Fantasia Festival.

Why do Quebecers themselves look down upon their own filmmakers when a horror film is produced? The people from this province seem to have this predetermined idea that the genre doesn’t belong to them; that the Americans are the ones who should deal with it. Even when a movie is made by a Quebecer, filmed in Quebec, produced by Quebecers, featuring Quebecers, people still claim: “That’s not a Quebec-like movie.” “L’inquiétante absence” is a documentary that underlines this problematic and brings numerous reasons to light as to why horror, science-fiction and fantasy movies seem frowned upon by the mainstream of the province. Through interviews with quebecois moviemakers of celebrity status like Robin Aubert, Patrick Huard, Erik Canuel, Jean-Claude Lord and numerous others (including Toronto’s world famous David Cronenberg), in addition to discussions with genre festival creators and directors, we obtain crucial and interesting testimonies from various aspects of this type of cinema.

Why is it that an award-winning, Quebec-made horror movie like “Les affamés” (Ravenous) from 2017, written and directed by Robin Aubert, barely gets a theatrical release in its own province, and gets hundreds of theatres around the world presenting it? To top things off: why is it that, in the beginning of its Blu-Ray and DVD release, it wasn’t even available in Quebec and Quebecers had to order it from countries like Spain to obtain a copy? It eventually did get a distribution in Quebec afterwards, but only after an enormous amount of backlash from quebecois horror fans. Questions like these are at hand within the documentary and make us wonder why the movie industry of Quebec feels this way.

We get introductions to festivals such as the prestigious Fantasia Festival (in which the documentary premiered), which is now famous worldwide, as well as the Spasm Festival, dedicated to quebecois (and elsewhere) short films of the genre cinema. The Requiem Fearfest is also presented, in which countless horror-related items are sold and a few movies are presented. We also discover a little how “Horreur Québec”, a French-speaking website revolving around the horror world, came to life and is still growing.

What is truly interesting about this documentary is that it opens everyone’s eyes; even those who thought they were aware of the problematic. From suggestions of potential movie ideas that moviemakers would never dare to brush upon to anecdotes of preposterous proportions regarding publicity (or lack thereof) and criticism of genre cinema within the province, we are witness to a number of aspects touching the subject.

The only weakness of the documentary would have to be that there is a lot of talking; duh, it`s a documentary. However, it is the way it was put together makes it sometimes feel like there is a lot of tedious speaking without much of a sense of diversion to get your focus off what is being said, even for only a few seconds. Perhaps dividing up the monologues with a different kind of visual or audio appeal would allow the spectator to refocus afterwards. Also, it doesn’t seem like the assembling of the various interviews fall under specific themes or individual “chapters”, making it sometimes feel like we’re jumping from topic to topic, before returning to one that’s been discussed before.

Nonetheless, that’s a minor detail overshadowed by the importance of this documentary. The container presented may sometimes seem dull, but its content is what is crucial and must be screamed about on every Quebec rooftop to sensitize its movie industry and moviegoers to wake up. For those who have little to no interest in genre cinema: watch the documentary. You will get a glimpse into this phenomenally intelligent and entertaining world. For those who are die-hard fans of genre cinema: watch the documentary. You’ll get chills as an actor like Patrick Huard describes his first experience at Fantasia Festival.

The documentary “L’inquiétante absence” receives an 8/10 rating.

Article written by Simon Rother

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