MONTREAL – The timing could not have been better for historical drama “Hochelaga, Land of Souls,” which is Canada’s pick for the best foreign-language film category at next year’s Oscars.
Telefilm Canada announced Monday in Montreal that the movie by director Francois Girard will be submitted for consideration.
“Hochelaga” looks at several centuries of Montreal history through an archeological dig after a sinkhole opens up under Percival-Molson Stadium in Montreal.
The announcement follows last week’s United Nations speech by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in which talked about the opportunity for “true, meaningful and lasting reconciliation” between Canada and its Indigenous Peoples.
Girard, a well-known Quebec film, opera, and theatre director, who is representing Canada in the category for the first time, noted in a news release that French is heard in the film alongside Mohawk and Algonquin — “the languages of the two great founding nations.”
Speaking Monday from New York City, Girard said he was extremely happy to learn that he would represent Canada at the Oscars.
“In a climate where the distribution of films has become more difficult, this recognition will make a big difference,” he added.
Producer Roger Frappier told a Montreal news conference that the movie is timely, considering all the discussions about reconciliation.
“This is a topic that, at the moment, is becoming very important for all Canadians and all Quebecers and we’re very happy we can bring this subject to the rest of the world,” he said.
Wahiakeron (George) Gilbert, one of the main actors, said it took a while to settle in when he learned the film was nominated.
“We did a lot of hard work (and), I wish them all the best success,” he added.
Cast member Naiade Aoun says the film is a documentary fiction which relates the historical facts and behind Montreal and who discovered the city.
“This is a movie that explains the whole story about it … that it was actually constructed and sculpted by a lot of different nations,” she said.
The film is to be released in theatres this fall.
Canada had finalists in the category three years in a row between 2010 and 2012.
Carolle Brabant, Telefilm Canada’s executive-director, noted that, in the history of the Oscars, eight Canadian films were nominated in the foreign film category — five in the last 10 years.
Denys Arcand’s “The Barbarian Invasions,” in 2004 was the last Canadian entry to win best foreign-language film.
Finalists will be announced in December and five films will make the short-list in January 2018 for the 90th Academy Awards show on March 4, 2018.