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Themes - Film

Anne Claire Poirier

Photograph of Anne Claire Poirier

(1932- )
Film Editor, Producer, Director

Anne Claire Poirier
Source


Anne-Claire Poirier was born in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, on June 6, 1932. When she was a child, she told her father that she would be a bishop when she grew up. Instead, she studied law and theatre concurrently, while discovering a passion for film. "My parents believed my future lay in the faculty of law. Back then, law school attracted people who wanted to do something else: to write, to perform in theatre or to work in television." [translation] (Entretien avec Anne-Claire Poirier, p. 5). She went on to become one of the most famous directors in Quebec cinema.

Her first job in radio and television was with Radio-Canada, where she worked as an actor, interviewer, host and scriptwriter. In 1960, she joined the National Film Board (NFB), first as an assistant editor then as an assistant director. She also worked as an actor and appeared in a handful of films. Following this, she directed short films: Stampede (1961), 30 minutes, Mister Plummer (1962), La fin des étés (1964), Les Ludions (1965), L'impôt et tout et tout (1968) and Le savoir-faire s'impose (1971). Shortly after, she graduated to feature films, a privilege usually reserved for men.

In the early 1970s, Anne-Claire Poirier and Jeanne Morazain, launched a new series "En tant que femmes" which tried to reach isolated women in Quebec in the hope of modernizing Quebec society . She became known for making films with feminist themes and for breaking barriers. She has made a name for herself by producing films that challenge women's collective social awareness According to the producer, "[...] a woman, regardless of her status as a housewife, worker or professional, and regardless of whether she is on social assistance, or belongs to the proletarian or middle class, suffers from an isolation that places her in a state of constant insecurity." [translation] (Anne-Claire Poirier, p. 9). Anne-Claire Poirier produced two of the six films in this series: Le temps de l'avant and Les filles du Roy.

Her first feature film, De mère en fille (1968), dealt with the issue of pregnancy. After the birth of her two children, she had felt guilty about not wanting her children to fall second to her career. She often felt guilty about her work when she was enjoying a happy period with her children, or, about her home life, when she was experiencing pivotal moments in her career.

The underlying theme of guilt she experienced in her career can be found in her first film. Child care becomes the solution that allows the woman to experience both a family life and a professional life without anxiety. This film also examines the advantages and disadvantages a woman faces when she is dependent on a spouse versus the advantages and disadvantages she faces alone when she gains her freedom and independence

Anne-Claire Poirier agrees that her films are both political and full of substance. They are based on women's experiences: motherhood (De mère en fille), work that is under-valued but essential to the community (Les filles du Roy), abortion (Le temps de l'avant) and rape (Mourir à tue-tête). The film Il y a longtemps que je t'aime explores women's pain and men's silence, with regard to women who are exploited or partly responsible for their own exploitation; women, who are no longer leading full lives. Her more recent films concentrate less on women's issues, but rather focus on relationships in general. Her film La quarantaine, filmed in 1982, reunites a group of childhood friends after thirty years, and Salut Victor! (1988) tells the story of the unlikely friendship between two older men. Il y a longtemps que je t'aime (1989) traces the changing point of view on what it means to be male and female.. Her most recent feature film, Tu as crié Let Me Go (1996), is an in-depth reflection on the life of substance-abusers, influenced by the tragic death of her daughter Yanne.

Anne-Claire Poirier has earned a reputation as a fighter, but, she argues, she had to be in order to practice her craft. Film production requires making many decisions within a short period of time. She admits that she has been afraid many times but that she has learned to channel her fear into energy. Her colleagues agree that Anne-Claire Poirier is a confident, courageous and determined woman — vital qualities for someone who for so many years was the only woman in the old boys' club at the National Film Board.

"I don't like to make films that provide answers; instead I try to ask the right questions." (Guénette, p. 8). Poirier describes her films as a series of images connected by emotions, that are intended to elicit reactions and to highlight the core motivations and behaviours of the modern woman. She has developed a style that goes against the current and raises awareness about unpopular topics, but that remains true to her emotions.

Are there other films she would like to make? She would like to do the story of the life of Jeanne Mance, nurse and co-founder of Montréal. She is interested in Mance's virtues — spirituality, vocation and service to others - qualities that are no longer very common , with each person living for himself or herself, putting down others and thinking only of individual ambitions and careers. "I have nothing against entrepreneurship, but it must not take priority over everything else." [translation] (Guénette, p 12).

Anne-Claire Poirier has also said that she would like to make a film about the break-up of couples after fifteen or more years of living together, in order to show two different interpretations of the same facts and to talk about misunderstandings and things that go unsaid. In her opinion, the break-up of a loving relationship is not a result of a lack of communication, but rather a lack of attention: "A relationship has to be desired not just accepted." [translation] (Guénette 1990, p. 12).

In 1985, Anne-Claire Poirier was appointed to the Ordre national du Québec and, in 1988, after 29 years at the National Film Board, she received the prestigious Albert Tessier Award for lifetime achievement. In 2001, the filmmaker received a Governor General's Performing Arts Award and, in February 2002, the Jutra-Hommage Award bestowed by La Grande Nuit du cinéma.

Filmography

1961 Stampede
1963 30 minutes, Mister Plummer
1964 La fin des étés
1965 Les Ludions
1967 De mère en fille
1968 L'impôt et tout et tout
1971 Le savoir-faire s'impose
1973 Les filles du Roy
1975 Le temps de l'avant
1979 Mourir à tue-tête
1982 La quarantaine
1988 Salut Victor!
1989 Il y a longtemps que je t'aime
1996 Tu as crié Let Me Go

Resources

"Anne-Claire Poirier." National Film Board. www.nfb.ca/portraits/fiche.php?lg=en (accessed September 30, 2004).

"Anne-Claire Poirier : entretien, témoignages et points de vue." Copie zéro (February 1985), p. 4-34.

Annuaire du cinéma québécois 1989. [Montréal]: Cinémathèque québécoise, 1990.

Les cahiers de théâtre : jeu. Montréal: Éditions Quinze (Winter 1976).

Carrière, Louise. Femmes et cinéma québécois. Montréal: Boréal Express, 1983, p. 137-140, 144, 148, and 152.

Cinéastes québécoises : dossier de presse. Anne-Claire Poirier, 1962-1981. Sherbrooke, Quebec: Bibliothèque du Séminaire de Sherbrooke, 1981.

Cinéma Canada. No. 32 (September-October 1967).

CinemAction : aujourd'hui le cinéma québécois. Edited by Louise Carrière. Paris: Cerf, 1986, p. 178.

"Entretien avec Anne-Claire Poirier." Séquences 81 (July 1975), p. 4-12.

"From Sea to Sea." Take One. Vol. 5, no. 15 (Spring 1997), p. 40-41.

Guénette, Françoise. "La cinquantaine aux éclats." Zoom sur elles. (Winter 1990), p. 6-12.

Houle, Michel and Alain Julien. Dictionnaire du cinéma québécois. Montréal: Fides, 1978.

Lamartine, Thérèse. Elles, cinéastes ad lib : 1895-1981. Québec, Quebec: Éditions du remue-ménage, 1985.

Martin, Agathe. "Le temps de l'avant d'Anne-Claire Poirier ou l'avortement à la rétro." Cinéma/Québec, p. 32-35.

[Untitled]. Take One. Vol. 5, no. 15 (Spring 1997), p. 34.

Zucker, Carole. "Les œuvres récentes d'Anne-Claire Poirier et Paule Baillargeon."Copie zéro. No. 11 (1981), p. 52-55.

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