Radio Canada International demonstrates how
// Leah Scheitel

It is common knowledge that Canada is a massive country with many diverse cultures. Montreal-based radio station Radio Canada International (RCI) wants to know what Canadian university and college students have to say about their own culture, and are extending the opportunity by inviting students to make short films for the World Filmmakers Project.

RCI is part of CBC, and has been offering radio programming to Canada and beyond since 1945, when it broadcast in English, French, and German to select parts of Europe. RCI now broadcasts internationally in seven languages: English, French, Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, Arabic, and Portuguese.

Boris Chassagne is an executive producer at RCI and has been working on the World Filmmakers project since 2009. He launched the RCI Vision website in June 2011 to function as an archive of other Canadian and international short films, as well as those produced by RCI. This year, they are inviting university and college students, and professors to participate and upload their own films to the website. The RCI Vision platform is dedicated to expressions of culture from Canada and around the globe, produced by both amateur and professional filmmakers. All of the films submitted will be showcased on the website.

The project is open to various types of submissions: “You can use animation, you can have fiction, you can do a documentary, and you can have portraits. Whatever style works,” Chassagne says.

The producers wanted to reach out to postsecondary students in particular because “there is so much talent at universities and colleges,” Chassagne says. “We know this because we see their work at film festivals around the world.”

Chassagne thinks that a match between state radio and television and the schools is long-awaited. “I feel like this project is filling a gap, making a connection between the two,” he explains.

RCI aims to reach a wide audience with this initiative because of the theme of Cultural Crossroads is very broad, and relates to RCI’s work on a larger scope. “[Cultural Crossroads] is the theme that has been emanating throughout what we did in the past five years,” says Chassagne.

So far, the site has over 650 short films in various collections. A past theme of ‘Roots’ showcases stories that range from hockey tales in Quebec, to a series of photos of friends at a party in Ontario, to a Chinese-born Canadian returning to Beijing in 2008, before the Olympics.

“The most interesting stories are those from different angles. There was someone who sent me a story about her grandfather who was dying, and how she accompanied him throughout his dying days,” Chassagne says. Other stories that stood out to Chassagne were about a sister’s suicide and one entitled My Motherland Korea, which was an animated slideshow about Korea. “People have different ways of thinking about any subject,” Chassagne explains, which is why the project is open to any type of creative medium.

The rules are few: the films have to be no longer than eight minutes excluding credits, can be produced in any language as long as it is subtitled in either French of English, must follow the Cultural Crossroads theme, and are to be submitted by May 31, 2012. The films can be an old project from a high school multi-media course or a project for a class this year.

The project is open to any student, not just film students: “It is important to say that this is open to all university students, whatever they’re studying. It can be business administration or anthropology or whatever they’re doing,” says Chassagne. “Everyone can produce something. Everyone has something to say about culture, and everyone has at least access to a smart phone that they can film with.”

The World Filmmaker Project is new and aims to grow quickly in the future.

“We hope that this project can grow in the next semesters and next years that will be closer to the interest of the students and the needs to the students, but this is the first step,” Chassagne says. “You have to start somewhere, and we hope to grow.”

If they get enough submissions, RCI producers are already imagining other ways to launch the films to a broader audience, giving a second life to the project. “Maybe we will do a national project of some kind, something more than just putting them on the website,” says Chassagne. Because of the connection to RCI, the works have the possibility of being shown on their affiliate TV stations, museums, universities, and film festivals, among other outlets.

A challenge has been extended to all students across the country to make their voices heard. With the ever-changing culture that we live in, the RCI producers are sure that there is a lot to say.

//Leah Scheitel, Writer
//Illustration by Thea Brulotte

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