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Joao Fleck [Celluloid 02.16.12] Canada scifi drama

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We've got a 24 hour exclusive on this English subbed version of the incredible Quebec scifi flick Mars et Avril and Martin Villeneuve and Anne-Marie Gelinas, the director and the producer were so kind to meet me regarding their film which is due to premiere in 2012.

First off, it’s important to clarify that Mars et Avril is quite possibly the first Quebecois film set in a futuristic Montreal and also, probably the first full sci-fi production made in the history of Quebec. Not only that, it is also the film with the highest VFX in the history of Quebec – summing up to an impressive total of 550 shots.


According to the interviewees, the film is a poetic adventure, full of imagination, that is meant to be seen on the big screen. This ambitious independent production was completed with a modest budget of 2.3 million since the majority of the talent involved agreed to work for only a quarter of their usual fee. Gelinas stated that internationally acclaimed artists such as actor and creative consultant Robert Lepage and production designer François Schuiten were doing so probably because something in Martin reminded them of their career debuts 25 years ago.

The film was shot in only 25 days (3 days in September 2008 and 22 days in April 2009), using the RED digital camera. Also, a one-day reshoot took place in March 2011 at Robert Lepage’s request. The casting for the film was based on the actors that had worked for the photo-novel (authored by Martin) released in 2 volumes (the first in 2002 and the second in 2006), and that was honored with several awards. The exception was Marie-Josee Croze (who portrayed the lead female character in the books but wasn't available for the film), replaced by the equally talented Caroline Dhavernas.

When asked about the influence of his older brother (Academy Award nominee Denis Villeneuve), Martin told us that he had read the script and made some useful notes. He also mentioned that due to their age gap of 11 years, when Denis was already an established filmmaker, he was just starting to make his own way in the industry. Therefore, at the end of the day, having Denis as a brother made him realize that it was possible to create films based mainly on strong ideas rather than big budgets.

Talking about his influences, Martin said that François Schuiten, a famous and recognized name in both comics (Les Cités obscures) and filmmaking (The Golden Compass and Mr. Nobody), was a strong inspiration. The young filmmaker was lucky enough to have Mr. Schuiten involved as a production designer which was beneficial for the project as a whole.









When we talked about the actual production, Martin's eyes light up as he explains how he had done a 2 hour long fully animated storyboard (a cinematic) a year before principal photography took place. He said that this cinematic made the process of filming a whole lot easier, because it was possible to plan the real shooting ahead with a rough version of the film. He could also use this tool to explain the scenes to the actors and technical crew, which proved very useful since the majority of the film was shot on green screen.

Therefore, the film is unique due to several reasons, among them, the preparation and dedication of Martin – 5 years for the novels and 7 for the film, summing up to 12 years – or in the director's words: "I spent my whole twenties involved in this project!” Since Mars et Avril was such a long time in the making, with lots of ups and downs, Martin said that he hit a wall at some point and had to double his budget in order to complete the post-production. Here entered Anne-Marie Gelinas and Benoit Beaulieu, which have been a strong help in refinancing the film.

According to Anne-Marie, not only does Martin know exactly what he wants, but he’s also able to translate that into the production process in order to bring his vision to the audience. He gathered the right people around him, but convincing some of them took more than a year which clearly demonstrates how determined he was. "He didn't take 'no' for an answer," says Anne-Marie, which at times could've been the easiest way out. His focus on the project as a whole and the fact that he isn't a dictatorial filmmaker nourished the creative process.” This especially showed in the development of the VFX, which took 6 months with an amazing crew from the Montreal-based post-production company Vision Globale (Upside Down).

"Time and timing were essential for the project" says Martin. Time because he often had to wait to bring together all the professionals he needed since they were working for a fraction of their usual fee. And timing, because amazing twists of fate happened during the process. For instance, the increase in the budget after the whole film was shot, and particularly the fact that Vision Globale was able to take the important VFX mandate in between two bigger projects, which allowed Martin to have access to a highly talented team that ranged from 50 to 80 artists.

To sum up, I'd say that - honestly speaking - for my impression of the trailer and talking with the director and the producer, it's a 2.3 million dollar film that comes across as a 25 million dollar production.

At this moment, Martin Villeneuve and Anne-Marie Gelinas have completed the film and are here at the Berlinale meeting with international sales agents to present their trailer which has already attracted a lot of interests. This is a special moment for them, in which they get to showcase their incredible work and discover which roads the film will travel.

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Koolz (2 years ago) Reply

WOw that's looks Fantastic! I can't wait to check it out! Finally some new scifi that isn't dumb'd down

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soma (2 years ago) Reply

Now why can't hollywood make more movies like this. This looks amazing!

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MrWorf (2 years ago) Reply

I think that it looks so wonderful is because it is truly a labor of love. Most films that we see that come from Hollywood have been "optimized" to appeal to the masses.


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