Claude Joli-Coeur

November 21, 2022 3:58 pm Published by

When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a pilot or an architect, but I became a lawyer.

Did you choose the NFB, or did the NFB choose you?

The NFB chose me.

The Commissioner at the time, Jacques Bensimon, asked me at a reception if I would be interested in becoming the director of legal services. The job had just been posted. I said no, because I’d just accepted a new position with Zone3, a large production house in Montreal. But Jacques wasn’t deterred. He insisted, and I finally accepted.

I should say that I did already feel a strong attachment to the NFB. From 1947 to 1966, my father-in-law, Pierre Juneau, was Director of French Program and Secretary to the Board of Directors (as was I). It’s funny—at one point I had his old office.

The NFB has been a really important part of my life.

Can you tell us one surprising thing about the Commissioner’s job?

You may not realize how much of the Commissioner’s work is done out of the spotlight, and how much of it involves repeated patterns.

As Commissioner, you are the NFB’s ambassador to Ottawa, and in particular to decision-makers in Ottawa—the people who have to make important decisions every single day, and who have a whole pile of different files in mind, and stakes to consider. These people also change quite often, depending on internal promotions or changes in government. I have to ensure that, when it comes to the NFB, there’s always a positive connection, that they have a positive association in mind. So, no matter who the decision makers are, they know the reasons for our needs, and they understand our mandate. But this also needs to be accompanied by an emotional component. And here I’d like to say a special thank you to the staff in Technical Services and in the studios, as well as to the animation filmmakers, who always welcome representatives from ministries or the government with open arms. They are the concrete, living proof of our unique expertise and our importance as a producer and distributor.

What would you say are the three biggest highlights of your term as Commissioner?

  1. When Minister Lebel called me to say that our proposal to move to downtown Montreal had been accepted.
  2. When I announced clear and targeted commitments to parity. I did not realize this announcement would serve as the spark for other organizations to follow on our heels. It paved the way for new commitments to more equity and inclusion, notably for Indigenous people and all under-represented groups.
  3. Our most recent restructuring. It’s the fruit of much reflection and fantastic collaboration within our small management team. We allowed ourselves to think outside the box. It was a challenging process, and I’m pleased to see how well the results have been received. Many people at the NFB have spoken to me about it. I see the hope it has brought. From idea to screen—that really sums it up.

In your eyes, what makes the NFB unique?

We have an influence on society through the films and works we produce. We contribute to building Canadian identity. We reflect the goals of justice and equity. That’s unique, and it’s huge.

Is there a work that particularly touched you? And if yes, what was it, and why?

Threads (Rubans) by Torill Kove.

With this universal film, Torill really succeeded in touching every parent who’s seen their child or children blossom and become independent. Isabelle and I have four children, including two girls we adopted. They all have come into their own and have left the nest. Every time I see this film, I get emotional.

Now that you’re preparing to retire, what’s your favourite leisure activity, and what are you planning to devote yourself to with a passion?

A whole lot of activities!

I have a passion for public art, and in particular murals. I take photos of them wherever I go.

I also have a passion for gardening. You should see my terraced hillside garden. I’ve got a 10-year plan for it.

I also love airplanes. I know all the models and can recognize them in flight. I’m always bugging my friends to bring me back the in-flight magazines from their planes when they travel. It’s a real passion.

Your term comes to an end on Friday. What can you tell us about the arrival of the next Commissioner?

A decision on the new commissioner has already been made and will be announced this week.

It’s a complicated process, and it has to be finalized with the approval of Cabinet and the assent (signature) of the Governor General. All that has to take place this week.

The announcement will be made by Minister Rodriguez. I know who it is, and I can assure you that you will be in very good hands.

Is there anything you would like to say in closing?

First, thank you. To everyone at the NFB. From the bottom of my heart. I am a reserved person, but I want you to know that I will carry with me fond memories of people who are passionate and—I can’t say this enough—skilful and dedicated.

Thank you.

I should also tell you that, even though I may be discreet, I will always have a passion for the NFB and will forever remain an extremely interested observer. I will always be happy to hear your news.

And you might run into me at the Balmoral building, since I’ll be working with the Archives team, particularly with André D’Ulisse and Marie-Line Joseph, to transfer my archival materials (including binders), which I’ve carefully maintained for the last nine years. They are for the NFB’s posterity.

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This post was written by Jimena Romero