Otherworldly Incursions: The Supernatural in Québec Cinema

When and Where

Thursday, February 06, 2020 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Deluxe Screening Room, Room 222
2 Sussex Avenue, Toronto, ON M5S 1J5


Dr. Kester Dyer


Traditionally anchored in realism, Québec cinema has historically been dominated by the determining influence of the National Film Board of Canada, as well as the legacy of Québec’s most important contribution to world film history - the cinéma direct movement.  However, my current research project, titled Otherworldly Incursions: The Supernatural in Québec Cinema, suggests that the rising prevalence of supernatural tropes in Québec cinema represents a stylistic development that stresses intercultural preoccupations. Indeed, Québec has witnessed periodic tensions that have yet proven irrepressible, leading to the 2008 publication of the Bouchard-Taylor report on reasonable accommodation, and culminating most recently in the controversial “Act respecting the laicity of the State” (Bill 21) sponsored by Québec’s Coalition avenir Québec government. In light of this, my project undertakes a broad scholarly investigation of supernatural motifs across genres in Québec cinema since the 1990s, and argues that supernatural tropes in Québec films reveal important information about how the Québec social imaginary negotiates relationships between dominant and marginalized groups, especially Indigenous peoples. Furthermore, I examine intersections between the supernatural and melancholia, a sentiment which has long dominated Québec cinema, and has invariably been attributed to Québec’s status as a conquered and incomplete nation. The current project departs from this assessment and posits Québécois melancholia as an ethical imperative manifested cinematically as haunting, and increasingly incited by the emergence of vibrant Indigenous film productions, which hold Québec accountable to ideals of national liberation that have largely ignored the aspirations of Indigenous peoples. Thus, my project strives to challenge commonplace settler assumptions and provide theoretical tools for genuine decolonization.

The second part of my presentation briefly addresses a concurrent project incorporating collaborative research and a community-building partnership with Wapikoni Mobile, a unique film production enterprise aimed at Indigenous youth. Wapikoni not only stimulates Québécois melancholia, but also engages with the idea of transportation from multiple perspectives. It thereby appropriates entrenched Québécois cultural myths, offers counter-narratives to dominant histories, and induces shifts in representation, perception and communication that fundamentally redefine intercultural relationships. As such, this second strand of my research considers Wapikoni’s production, exhibition, and cinematic culture formation through the lens of transportation. Drawing on archival research, close readings, interviews, and media commentary, as well as my role as co-organizer of the Circle Visions Indigenous media-making workshops at Concordia, it combines scholarly research with the production of several short Indigenous-authored films. Thus, in collaboration with Indigenous participant-filmmakers, it reflects on audiovisual technology’s potential to “transport” viewers and serve as a tool for Indigenous storytelling, pedagogy, and activism


Dr. Dyer is a faculty member in the Department of Humanities at Dawson College, Montreal. He received his PhD in Film and Moving Image Studies from Concordia University in 2018. His teaching and researchfocus on Québec and Indigenous film and media and he has published several articles and book chapters on these topics. His current book project titled Otherworldly Incursions: The Supernatural in Québec Cinema, based on his SSHRC-funded doctoral research, comprises a broad exploration of the Québec film corpus since the 1990s, and analyzes how supernatural tropes across genres reveal key information about the Québec social imaginary’s struggle to delineate relationships between historically dominant and more marginalized groups, including Indigenous peoples and immigrants. In parallel, Kester was awarded the Film Studies Association of Canada’s Gerald Pratley Award for his research on Wapikoni Mobile, a unique transportable production initiative aimed at emerging Indigenous filmmakers. In his ensuing collaboration with Wapikoni, he co-founded the Circle Visions community-building project at Concordia. This initiative, supported by a SSHRC Partnership Engage grant, features an annual series of cross-platform media-making workshops for Indigenous filmmakers, and has more recently evolved toward the mobilization and theorization of interactive, 360-degree and VR filmmaking as a tool for decolonization by Indigenous artists.


2 Sussex Avenue, Toronto, ON M5S 1J5