25 y.o. Cannes Jury Prize Winner Xavier Dolan’s Message to Fellow Young Artists
If you don’t know him yet, then you should probably learn his name. Canadian filmmaker/prodigy Xavier Dolan, who wrote, directed and acted in his first feature film ‘J’ai Tué Ma Mère‘ (I Killed My Mother) that won three awards at the Director’s Fortnight program of the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, when he was 19, just co-won with Jean-Luc Godard the Jury Prize for his fifth (!) feature film ‘Mommy‘, that made a lot of buzz during Cannes, and was shot on a square 1:1 aspect ratio. (If you want to read more about that, check the excellent article by Joe Marine, from No Film School).
Dolan is a polarized character, his films are very personal and raw with a strong visual palette that comes through his body of work. (I haven’t seen Mommy yet, but from what I’ve seen, it seems consistent.) It is not easy to see a “25 y.o. kid” producing consistently films that get year after year into the most prestigious festivals, and I am sure Dolan’s stellar trajectory reflects and revives many ghosts named “failure”. If I personally don’t love all his films at the same level, I am certainly inspired and humbled by Dolan’s creativity, focus and relentlessness, and last week at Cannes, Dolan graced us with an emotional and inspiring speech, dedicated to Jury President Jane Campion, but first and foremost to “his generation”.
The speech starts in French, Dolan’s first language, but when he reached the moment to share his message to Jane Campion and his peers, he switched to English. Here he what he said to Campion:
“To Jane Campion: as far as I can remember, The Piano is the first film I watched when I asked my step mother : What should I watch?. And she said: The Piano. It was the first of many, many films that I watched and defined who I am and how I love, and few changed my life the way your Piano did. And to stand today on the same stage than you is nothing short of extraordinary. Your Piano made me want to write roles for women, beautiful women with soul, and will, and strength. Not victims, not objects.“
And then to his generation:
“I guess these are the notes from all the years in this crazy business. I just want to tell you that, despite people who are entitled to their own taste and will dislike what you do, and some who will dislike who you are, let’s hold on to our dreams because together we can change the world, and the world needs to be changed. Touching people, making them cry, making them laugh, can change their minds. And changing minds, changes lives slowly, and changing lives means changing the world. Not only politicians and scientists can change it, but artists as well. They’ve been doing it forever. There is no limits to our ambition except the one we build for ourselves and the one people will build for us.”
Xavier Dolan then switched in French saying: “En bref, je pense que tout est possible à qui rêve, ose, travaille et n’abandonne jamais.” Which means: “In short, I believe everything is possible to those who dream, dare, work and never give up.”
Inspiring words from a filmmaker that has become the symbol of this last sentence. So, if you are a filmmaker, and you read this, hold on tight, and keep dreaming, daring, working hard, and never give up.
If you want to watch the video and skip the French section, go directly to 3:42 below. For the french speakers, you can watch the video on Canal +, dubbed unfortunately, during the English segment, but in a much higher quality.[Thanks to @ecrannoir and Marc Van de Klashorst]