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Michaëlle Jean: A Woman of Purpose

Jean-Daniel Lafond
2016 | 52 min

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Jean-Daniel Lafond

Jean-Daniel Lafond

A professor of philosophy and education researcher in his native France, Jean-Daniel Lafond came to Université de Montréal in 1974 and became a Canadian citizen in 1981. By 1983, he was experimenting with radio production with the radio film Robert Flaherty, prospecteur et cinéaste ou le rêve d’un prince, for Radio-France. He revisited this medium frequently, illustrating the breadth of his interests and research, which ranged from Jacques Cartier (Jacques Cartier: Le voyage imaginé) and Pierre Perrault (Les traces du rêve ou Pierre Perrault, cinéaste, chasseur et Québécois) to an original soundtrack for a series of animated films (Mystère, Pierrot d’or at the 29th Cannes Film Festival, International Critics’ Week in 1990), Chile (Chili: La mémoire et l’oubli), and Acadia (Cinq ballades acadiennes). He has also published more than 10 works since his first book, Images d’un doux ethnocide, appeared in 1979, on topics such as Aimé Césaire (La Manière nègre ou Aimé Césaire, chemin faisant), the consequences of 9/11 (Les tours de Babel : La paix après le 11 septembre), Iran (Conversations in Tehran), and cinema (“Écrire avec une caméra” in L’écriture cinéma au Québec and “Les utopies nécessaires” in Métier réalisation). In 2015, Édito-Gallimard published his most personal book, Un désir d’Amérique : Fragments nomades.

 But this multifaceted creator and curious observer of the world and his time has also worked fervently behind the camera. In 1985, he directed his first documentary, Les traces du rêve, which earned him a Genie nomination. Roots, exile, and utopia are a few of the recurring themes explored in the more than 15 films he’s directed. These poetic, provocative, and thoughtful reflections on the destinies of individuals and peoples include titles such as La Manière nègre ou Aimé Césaire, chemin faisant (1991), Tropique Nord (1994, best French-language documentary, Prix TV5), Haïti dans tous nos rêves (1995, best political documentary, 1996 Hot Docs festival, Toronto), L’Heure de Cuba (1999, best documentary film, Prix Gémeaux), Salam Iran: A Persian Letter (2002, best documentary film, Prix Gémeaux), Le cabinet du Docteur Ferron (2003, best documentary film, Prix Gémeaux), and American Fugitive: The Truth About Hassan (2006, nominated for four awards at the 2007 Prix Gémeaux). In 2008, after 28 years of research, he finished his first fictional film, Madwoman of God, and a play, La déraison d’amour, inspired by the writings of Marie of the Incarnation. Starring Marie Tifo, both were included in the official festivities of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City.

Lafond co-founded the Montreal International Documentary Festival and the Observatoire canadien du documentaire and, in 1999, won the Prix Lumières. He is a Companion of the Order of Canada, a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts, and a Chevalier of France’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. From 2005 to 2010, his wife, Michaëlle Jean, served as the 27th Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, and Lafond played an active role in her mandate, creating with her in 2010 the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, committed to helping underprivileged youth. His new documentary, Michaëlle Jean, A Woman of Purpose, takes filmgoers on the extraordinary adventure he has shared with this dedicated woman turned stateswoman.

Nathalie Barton

Nathalie Barton

Nathalie Barton is president of InformAction Films inc., which she co-founded in Montreal in 1971. She has produced documentaries, especially auteur documentaries, since 1985, including films by emerging filmmakers. Producers Ian Quenneville and Ian Oliveri joined the company in 2000.

Recent production credits include Grassroots In Dry Lands, feature documentary by Helene Klodawsky, coproduced with the NFB, to be released in 2016, The Price We Pay, feature documentary by Harold Crooks, launched at TIFF 2014 and released theatrically in March 2015 (TIFF Top Ten, Best Canadian documentary Vancouver Film Critics Circle), Faith in Government, by Jon Kalina,2014, Frameworks, Images of a Changing World, feature documentary by Helen Doyle, 2013 (Best Arts & Culture Documentary: Prix Gémeaux 2014, finalist Best Feature Documentary: Prix Jutra 2014, Best Canadian Film: FIFA 2013), Trains of Life by André Melançon, 2013, Sand Wars, by Denis Delestrac, coproduced with La compagnie des Taxi-brousse, Rappi Productions and Arte, 2013 (Best Nature & Science Documentary: Prix Gémeaux 2014, Rockie Award for Best Environmental Program: Banff World Media Festival 2014, 10 international awards), East End Forever, feature documentary by Carole Laganière, 2012, Planet Yoga, feature documentary by Carlos Ferrand, 2011, Unlikely Treasures and Small Wonders by Tally Abecassis, 2010.

Nathalie Barton represented documentary on the board of APFTQ from 1994 to 2002, was a member of the executive of Femmes du cinéma, de la télévision et des nouveaux medias from 2005 to 2010, and chair of the Observatoire du documentaire (The Documentary Network) from 2008 to 2011. She is a founding member and member of the board of the African film festival in Montreal, Vues d’Afrique.

René Chénier
Producer (NFB)

René Chénier

René Chénier served as Executive Producer at the National Film Board of Canada’s French Animation Studio from 2006 to 2014. Under his leadership, the Studio produced over 70 animated short films, and since 2012, it has garnered 122 awards at Canadian and international festivals. While heading the Studio, René strived to expand its involvement in international co-productions. He has recently been appointed the NFB’s Executive Producer, Special Projects.

Earlier in his career, René independently produced the award-winning musical fantasy Hugo and the Dragon (Philippe Baylaucq, 2001) and collaborated on the production of several other fiction feature films, including The Necessities of Life (2008) by Benoît Pilon, which received several awards and was a semi-finalist for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars.

In 2010, René produced Impressions/Glimpses, a short film created especially for the prestigious World Expo in Shanghai, where it was shown on a huge semi-circular screen at the Canada Pavilion, offering audiences an immersive cinematic experience. A true man of the cinema, René also stands out for having produced several films in 3D, including ORA (Philippe Baylaucq, 2011) a short film about dance, choreographed by José Navas.

ORA is the first film in the world to have been shot using infrared cameras and carries Norman McLaren’s tradition of painting with light into the 21st century. ORA has been widely acclaimed and received numerous awards, including the 3D Creative Arts Award at the Autodesk 3D Independent Short Film Competition of the International 3D & Advanced Imaging Society in Los Angeles in February 2013. René Chénier’s most recent production, CODA (Denis Poulin and Martine Époque, 2014), has been selected for the 2014 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival.


Sgt Serge Gouin, Rideau Hall, OSGG
Photo : © Sgt Serge Gouin, Rideau Hall, OSGG
Sgt Serge Gouin, Rideau Hall, OSGG
Photo : © Sgt Serge Gouin, Rideau Hall, OSGG


Written, Narrated and Directed by
Jean-Daniel Lafond

Edited by
Babalou Hamelin

Jean-Daniel Lafond

Additional Images
Alberto Feio
Carlos Ferrand
Sgt Ronald Duchesne
Sgt Serge Gouin
Sgt Éric Jolin
MCpl Evan Kuelz
MCpl Jean-François Néron
MCpl Issa Paré
MCpl Dany Veillette

Sound Recording
Jean-Denis Daoust
Jean-Daniel Lafond
Catherine Van Der Donckt

Sound Editing
Catherine Van der Donckt
Benoît Dame
Gaëlle Komàr


Research Consultant
Yves Bisaillon

Voice Recording
Serge Hamel

Sound Mix
Serge Boivin

Online Editing
Serge Verreault

Cynthia Ouellet

Technical support
Isabelle Painchaud
with the participation of
Patrick Trahan
Pierre Dupont

Technical Project Coordination
Daniel Lord                                                                                          

Archival Coordination and Rights Clearance
Nancy Marcotte

Archival Sources
AP Images/Ramon Espinosa
Library and Archives Canada
CTV News Stox, a Division of Bell Media Inc.
Latin American Studies
The Canadian Press
Le Devoir
Guy Lion
The Globe & Mail
Toronto Star

Hymne à la beauté du monde
by Luc Plamondon and Christian St-Roch
Plamondon Publishing, Les Éditions Vibrations

Inuusivunga (Je vais vivre)
by Elisapie Isaac and Alain Auger

Lussier & Khouzam
Rémy Khouzam
Sophie De Champlain (ONF)

Production Accountant
Martine Brunelle

Nathalie Barton (InformAction)
René Chénier (ONF)


Press Relations

  • About the NFB

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