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pascale ferland, director:

Meeting René Bail

In 1995 I used to cross paths with a smiling man who slowly took his daily walk. His burn scarred face frightened me and, not knowing how to cope with that uncomfortable feeling, I never dared to speak with him. Who would have imagined that, ten years later, I would spend close to three years filming him . . .

It was only in 2003 that I actually met René Bail. A friend of his, the filmmaker and producer Richard Brouillette, introduced him to me.

To my surprise, probably partly due to our common friend, it took me very little time to become accustomed to Bail’s disfigured body. He expressed himself with assurance and his voice radiated joie de vivre. One forgot his ugliness and, instead, felt great admiration for him.

In filming René Bail, I initially thought that my main challenge would be in revealing his inner beauty. He didn’t need my help to be endearing. Filming someone has nothing to do with challenge, it's a privilege.

Discovering a myth

It should be pointed out that René Bail is the director of one of the first independent films made in Québec, Les Désoeuvrés. He was never completely satisfied with the film and, since its release in 1959, he exclaimed to whoever wanted to hear that its sound mix and parts of the editing needed to be redone.

When I met Bail, he had been unable to complete the film as planned because, strangely enough, his sound material had disappeared. He had temporarily abandoned the idea of making films and had devoted himself to motorcycling, a devouring passion that, in 1972, left him handicapped and seriously burned.

In 1999, the chronic burns resulting from his motorcycling accident developed into cancer on his right foot. In 2001, due to metastasis, Bail had to have his right leg amputated up to the knee. A year later, further metastases located in his groin, and Bail had to undergo chemotherapy that weakened him considerably. While he prepared again for imminent death, his doctors seemed to have eliminated the cancer through surgery. It was at this point that Richard Brouillete made great efforts to help René Bail realize his dream of over forty years to complete Les Désoeuvrés. The film’s original sound material had yet to be found . . .

Miraculously, in 2003, the missing sound material was finally recovered from the Cinémathèque Québécoise. This unexpected discovery, in addition to Richard Brouillette’s encouragement, stimulated Bail to finish his film.

Filming René

While filming René Bail during these past years, I had the privilege of meeting a man who loved freedom. He was a humble and cultured man who was passionate about cinema, literature, music, and motorcycles (probably the biggest and most brutal love of his life).

I was finishing the editing of my film when René Bail died on October 9, 2007, of generalized cancer. On learning this news, Richard Brouillete and I held each other tightly, knowing that our intense apprenticeship with a true master and lover of life had come to an end.

I dedicate this film to all those who, like René Bail, are lovers of nature, and to all those for whom the word “freedom” has a genuine meaning every day.

In your memory, my friend.

Pascale Ferland

Pascale Ferland

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Download her curriculum vitae in pdf or in rtf

Pascale Ferland made her first award-winning experimental videos whilestudying visual arts at UQAM (Université du Québec à Montréal). After working in sculpture for a number of years, she completed her first feature film Something like immortality (L'Immortalité en fin de compte) in 2003. The film, a documentary about the obsession of creating, was a finalist at the Jutra Awards in the best documentary category. Exploring the same theme, Ferland’s second feature film, Tree with severed branches (L’arbre aux branches coupées), was completed in 2005. It received critical acclaim and went on to be presented at numerous national and international film festivals. In 2006, Ferland received the Lynch-Staunton Award for the outstanding quality of her work. Adagio for a biker is her third feature film.