‘The rough cut was a catastrophe’

Director Denis Delestrac recalls the over-long and over-budget making of his Pax Americana at Montreal fest

MONTREAL — Multimedia initiatives, international coproductions and the demands of broadcasters were on tap at the opening day of the fifth annual Doc Circuit of the Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal, which opened with a lively discussion about the doc Pax Americana.

Filmmaker Denis Delestrac, ARTE current affairs head Alex Szalat, Radio-Canada’s Georges Amar and Lowik Media producer Lucie Tremblay discussed the copro — about the increasing technological control of outer space by the U.S. government. The coproduction treaty between France and Canada helped to facilitate a production that ran over-budget and took over a year longer to complete than anticipated.

‘The rough cut was a catastrophe,’ admitted Delestrac. At 180 minutes, it was too long even for a feature doc. Delestrac got a laugh from the audience of industry pros when he added that at least one partner wanted ‘a happy ending for a film on militarization of space.’

An afternoon panel brought together CBC’s Michael Claydon, Bravo!’s Charlotte Engel and PBS POV programming director Chris White with Joan Jenkinson of VisionTV and Richard Paradis from Super Écran. The topic, ‘Where are the Networks?’ in the current economic and administrative climate in English Canada, was deftly skirted by the panelists — though they stated that the business of commissioning and broadcasting docs and other material was proceeding normally.

Moderator Monique Simard of the National Film Board wrapped up the discussion early, with the reassuring statement that ‘there’s a public for docs.’

The final Doc Circuit event for the day was the Multimedia Challenge, in which three teams of young producers offered proposals for doc-oriented cross-platform projects. The winner, Sam de Champlain, won a $7,500 development grant for Tempète de neige – trousse de survie — which will offer advice for new immigrants to Canada, and native Canucks who don’t know, about how to survive winters in this frosty country.