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Sunday, July 31, 2011

I rented LES HAUTS ET LES BAS DE SOPHIE PAQUIN, the hit hourlong Québec comic drama that was remade as the Canadian comedy SOPHIE.

The problem is, my French is not good enough to watch francophone TV. I can pitch a show to a producer in French, and I can direct a film crew in French. I listen to the news in French in my car. But TV comes at you a bit faster and stronger than someone you're having a conversation with. (Also, my hearing is a bit degraded from too many nights at the Pyramid Club and too many days in the NYC subway system in my wasted youth.) So I was hoping for subtitles.

No subtitles.

How about closed captions? Surely there are closed captions so the hard of hearing can watch? I read French just fine.

It took me half an hour to figure out how to turn on closed captions on my TV, basically because...

... there were no closed captions to turn on.

This is a shame. Québec's TV industry is vibrant. It really speaks to its audience, who don't see themselves reflected in Canadian TV, or French TV, or American TV. It has funny comedies and dramatic dramas. It doesn't pull punches. Why do you think they keep remaking Québec shows?

It's possible that some Canadians might want to watch it, if only out of curiosity. And maybe, with a few subtitles, they could get into the characters and the stories.

Ditto Québecois movies. A lot of those aren't subtitled or closed captioned either.

Of course subtitles cost money, and Québecois TV shows are made on ridiculously tiny budgets -- think $170,000 per half hour instead of $500,000. So producers and distributors are not going to spring for them.

This strikes me as a problem worth throwing government money at. Subsidize subtitles!

Why? I've been deliberately using inflammatory language in this post, in case you didn't notice -- using "Canadian" to refer to Canada outside Québec. Why, you'd almost think I was a sovereigntist. And obviously, having gone to the trouble of immigrating to Canada, I'd like to keep Canada whole.

But I don't see Québec on Canadian TV. And I sure as hell don't see francophones on Canadian TV. It's practically verboten to show anyone with a Québec accent. A British accent, no problem. An Italian accent, no problem. A Turkish accent, no problem. But Québec? Sorry.

My producer and I were told by a funder that if we had anyone speaking French in our romantic comedy, which is set in Montreal, no one would see it outside of Québec. Maybe if Canadians got a little Québec culture now and then, they wouldn't feel it was "pretentious" for a movie to show a little bilingualism.

If francophones never see themselves on Canadian TV, and Canadians can't experience Québec TV unless their French is already perfect, is it any wonder that so many Québeckers feel like they live in a different country already? I get that feeling myself.

Culture binds a society together.

Subtitles are pretty cheap sutures.

UPDATE: The Collaborative for Communication Access via Captioning is an advocacy group for more closed captioning. Check'em out if you're interested.



This comment has been removed by the author.

By Blogger DMc, at 3:52 PM  

The original (not the remake) Peta Wilson-starring "La Femme Nikita" series played under that title everywhere in the world (bolstering the careers of, among others, the eventual creators of 24).

...except English Canada, where it was called "Nikita." Because nobody would watch it with a French title.

Every time some meathead does a "Joe Canadian" rant, I think about that. Here's this thing that actually makes Canada wonderful, different, unique...

...and there are places -- large swaths -- of Canada -- where that thing -- one of the only things, that makes Canada a unique country culturally, is anathema. That's fucked.

Regional resentment trumps all.

I would think Canadian Heritage just for the sake of unity should throw some money at an English language captioning fund. Just so those shows can make their way to Netflix. Or I can watch them when I'm on an Air Canada flight...you can watch Modern Family in English and French, but Les Bourgoins and Les Boys? Not so much.

It's a great ask. Someone should push for it.

By Blogger DMc, at 3:54 PM  

Good for you to publish this! Join us in the CCAC also? see www.ccacaptioning.org - free membership and we are active!

By the way, I have French Canadian television (two channels) in New England, by choice, and there are no captions! So disappointing - I need them. Need to find time to figure out how to advocate for this. Want to help? :-)
Lauren/founder of the CCAC.

By Blogger CCACaptioning, at 11:07 AM  

In my more paranoid moments, I'm inclined to believe that there are those who've got a vested interest in keeping us all PO'ed at each other in this way.

I'll also second this particular ask as an anglophone viewer. Born in Saskatchewan, raised all over the prairie, transplanted dans le capitale du pays.

I need that regular practice en français, ouais?

By Blogger Dwight Williams, at 7:02 PM  

"My producer and I were told by a funder that if we had anyone speaking French in our romantic comedy, which is set in Montreal, no one would see it outside of Québec."

You'll recall my prediction of how well "Bon Cop, Bad Cop" would play in the RoC. As I predicted, Quebec accounts for some 90% of the gross, according to Wikipedia.

The RoC just doesn't want the French.

By Blogger Webs, at 11:59 AM  

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