The NFB congratulates filmmaker Tahani Rached, 2023 winner of the prestigious Albert Tessier Award
November 22, 2023 – Montreal – National Film Board of Canada (NFB)
The National Film Board of Canada would like to recognize the recipient of the 2023 Albert Tessier Award: acclaimed documentarian Tahani Rached. She will be receiving the award today at 4:30 p.m., at the official Prix du Québec ceremony at Palais Montcalm in Quebec City. The Albert Tessier Award is the highest honour in Quebec cinema, celebrating the recipient’s lifetime achievement and the importance of their contributions to Quebec film. It is one of 17 Prix du Québec awards handed out during the ceremony.
For over 40 years—including more than 20 at the NFB—Tahani Rached’s films have unfailingly demonstrated a commitment to social and political issues, both in Canada and around the world, while broadening the art of documentary through the use of animation and song. Her unique perspective on immigration and other subjects, along with her empathetic gaze focused on hope, amplify the voices of people from many different environments and countries of origin. Ms. Rached becomes one of 35 filmmakers and artists associated with the NFB to win the Albert Tessier Award. The list includes Norman McLaren, Michèle Cournoyer, Alanis Obomsawin and Pierre Perrault.
“The NFB is delighted that this major award has been given to a filmmaker whose social and political concerns resonate powerfully in the present day. Artists of the calibre of Tahani Rached, who is deeply involved in issues on the ground, bring to our film culture profoundly human perspectives on concrete issues affecting people both here and elsewhere in the world. Hers is a vision with the kind of wide perspective we all need more of today.” – Suzanne Guèvremont, Government Film Commissioner and Chairperson of the NFB
TAHANI RACHED’S CAREER
Early days and discovery of cinema
- Tahani Rached was born in Cairo, Egypt, in 1947. In 1966, she left her homeland and moved to Quebec.
- With a passion for the visual arts, she enrolled in the École des Beaux-Arts at a pivotal moment, when reflections on the relationship between the aesthetic and the political took centre stage and led to a complete overhaul of the teaching and practice of art in Quebec. Swept along by the spirit of the times, her interests gradually began to change. She found herself increasingly drawn to a commitment to collective causes, in particular through social action aimed at making concrete change. Film proved to be her ideal medium.
- Between 1972 and 1980, her most significant projects were videos made for international cooperation organizations, television programs on Quebec’s Arab community, and her first feature film on Quebec immigrants, Les voleurs de job. Denys Arcand took note of this striking film and invited her to be one of a number of directors who participated in a frenzy of filming during the 1980 referendum on Quebec sovereignty. Their footage would lead to the celebrated documentary Comfort and Indifference.
A productive period at the NFB (1981–2004)
- In 1981 she was hired by the NFB as a staff filmmaker.
- Her first film, La phonie furieuse (1982), a short, humorous look at the walkman phenomenon and people’s tendency to isolate themselves from the outside world, laid the groundwork for films to come.
- An eye on the world’s hotspots
- In her ensuing films, she devoted herself to making the problems of the world—from the Middle East to Haiti—more widely known by sharing the voices of local and diaspora communities. These documentaries, on issues that remain topical, provide perspective on events taking place now.
- Beyrouth! Not Enough Death to Go Round (1983) incorporates innovative animation sequences to reveal the conditions in which Lebanese survivors lived in Beirut’s refugee camps after the war with Israel.
- Haïti, Québec (1985) portrays Haitian immigrants grappling with exclusion and racism.
- She then made two films in chaotic post-Duvalier Haiti, Bam Pay A! Rends-moi mon pays (1986) and Haïti, Nous là! Nou la! (1987).
- In Four Women of Egypt (1997), she introduces us to four women committed to social battles in their country—a plea for tolerance, friendship and social commitment.
- Soraida, a Woman of Palestine (2004) tells the story of a woman who lives in Ramallah, in the heart of the occupied territories.
- Local issues and people on the margins
- Tahani Rached didn’t just make films about other countries. She has also been interested in social issues in her adopted land, and in people living on the fringes of society.
- Au chic Resto Pop (1990) paints a warm and captivating portrait of a popular restaurant in Montreal’s Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighbourhood and the people working there. A film expressed in music and song, it breathes new life into the social documentary.
- Doctors with Heart (1993) raises ethical questions about the treatment of AIDS and examines the doctor-patient relationship.
- Emergency! A Critical Situation (1999) follows the trials and tribulations of a group of nurses in a Montreal-area emergency room.
- For a Song (2001) shows the camaraderie and determination of people sharing a common bond, singing together in a choir called Ensemble vocal d’Outremont.
- Tahani Rached left the NFB in 2004.
More recent filmmaking in Egypt
- Currently, Tahani Rached is making documentaries as an independent filmmaker, shedding light on various experiences in her native Egypt. In 2006, she made El Banate Dol (These Girls), which follows teens living on the streets of Cairo. It was an official selection of the Cannes Film Festival.
- In 2010, she shot Giran (Neighbours), about a small residential neighbourhood adjacent to Cairo’s downtown, which was a seat of local and international political power in the Egyptian capital.
- In 2012, she directed Nafass Taweel (Long Breath), a chronicle of an Egyptian family’s daily life, shot during the months following the revolution of 2011.
- She is currently working on a documentary for Arte called Comme s’ils venaient de l’utopie, about the Egyptian revolution of 2011, as seen through the eyes of a family of Egyptian intellectual and activist artists.
Where to watch
- Eight of the 11 films Tahani Rached directed at the NFB can be screened here. Watching them is a wonderful way to celebrate her work and career.
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French version here | Version française ici.
About the NFB
Founded in 1939, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is a one-of-a-kind producer, co-producer and distributor of distinctive, engaging, relevant and innovative documentary and animated films. As a talent incubator, it is one of the world’s leading creative centres. The NFB has enabled Canadians to tell and hear each other’s stories for over eight decades, and its films are a reliable and accessible educational resource. The NFB is also recognized around the world for its expertise in preservation and conservation, and for its rich and vibrant collection of works, which form a pillar of Canada’s cultural heritage. To date, the NFB has produced more than 14,000 works, 6,500 of which can be streamed free of charge at nfb.ca. The NFB and its productions and co-productions have earned over 7,000 awards, including 11 Oscars and an Honorary Academy Award for overall excellence in cinema.