The Artisans takes us into the rhythms of daily life at a unique organization, where the workers are as courageous as they are colourful.
For more than 35 years, The Artisan Workshop in Memramcook, New Brunswick, has provided employment for people with intellectual disabilities. The documentary The Artisans chronicles the daily lives of the colourful and courageous individuals who work there full-time.
Employees at The Artisan perform a range of tasks, including creating decorative objects, woodworking, preparing light meals, shredding paper, and sorting bottles, cans, and other materials for recycling. More importantly, the centre serves a vital function, providing these adults with a valuable social setting where they can thrive and find personal fulfillment.
With The Artisans, filmmaker Daniel Léger (A Sunday at 105, Inseparable) turns his compassionate gaze onto a little-known humanist gem of a place, tucked away in a corner of New Brunswick.
We live in an era ruled by the values of performance and productivity. But The Artisan takes a different approach. Here, everybody works at their own pace. There’s a place for everyone, and everyone’s individual contribution is important. Narrated by Jean (“the handyman and best-looking” member of the group), the film is a testament to the priceless value of social inclusion. As narrator, Jean shows pride in how he builds everyday objects “from scratch” with his own hands and contributes to his community. And as we witness daily life at The Artisan, we see how Jean and others are embraced as part of a united, mutually supportive, and compassionate team.
The 15-odd artisans in the group include thoughtful Léo, delicate Majella, Annie, who’s always ready for fun, and Monique, the joker of the bunch. Everyone here is both inspired and inspiring, and thought-provoking in their own way, even if they don’t always recognize it. Their unique perspectives on daily life invite us to reconsider traditional pathways and social customs—and how we, as a society, choose to draw a line between “normal” and “marginal.” Some of the participants in the film speak English, some French, and others not at all. “But that’s OK,” Jean says. “We understand each other anyway.” While the workers may be aware of their differences, they’re just as conscious of each member’s rich contribution to this highly diverse group.
Time goes by. Daily routines are filmed at a leisurely pace, with deference to the rhythms of each individual. And eventually, remarkable details emerge: a kick at some soil reveals a deer leg; a heartfelt declaration of friendship is transformed into a song; a broom serves as a dance partner. The workshop is its own world—a microcosm in which fear and ridicule are non-existent. In front of the camera, the workers share astonishing rushes of empathy and tender moments, as well as carefree, heartfelt laughter. Viewers witness interactions that are filled with genuine and powerful emotions and stripped of social constraints.
The Artisans marks the third collaboration between director Daniel Léger and the National Film Board of Canada. It’s a film that offers a moving look at a world in which difference is truly celebrated. “We’re beautiful, the whole gang,” says Jean. “We are special.”
With the participation of
Florence Anne Sanderson
Researched, written and directed by
Paul Goguen, Connections Productions
Infographics and Titles
François Émond, Les Productions du Pilier
© 2018 National Film Board of Canada (SOCAN)
interpreted by Bois-Joli
written and composed by Lambert
used by permission of SODRAC
“Des années comme ça”
interpreted by Alain Comeau
composed by Alain Comeau
written by Alain Comeau and Armande Comeau
“Tourne le temps”
interpreted by Ronald Bourgeois
written and composed by Ronald Bourgeois
© CENTRE STAGE MUSIC INC
used by permission of sodrac
“Quand le soleil dit bonjour aux montagnes”
interpreted by Jean Landry
written and composed by Harry Pease and Larry Vincent
used by permission of Canadian Shapiro Bernstein (SOCAN)
Video Technical Support
Audio Technical Support
Produced with the collaboration of
Chief of original programming
Director of contents