MONTREAL — Francophone thesps in Canada have a message for Hollywood: they can speak a type of French understood around the world.
Quebecois actors are convinced American studio execs have prejudices about the French spoken in la belle province — as Quebec is known — and that’s why they are reluctant to dub their films into French here.
Anne-Marie Des Roches, public affairs director at the Union des Artistes, the country’s main French actors group, calls the French spoken in Canada “mid-Atlantic,” meaning it mixes Euro flavor with North American influences. But she says actors in Quebec can dub in an international French that can work in other markets, including even France.
“There is a misunderstanding about the language,” Des Roches says. “They think we all speak ‘joual’ (local slang-filled blue-collar Quebec French) here. I’m not sure they know that Europeans and everyone else in the world is open to our accent. I don’t think they realize that these Quebec-made French dubs can travel.”
The laws in France prohibit pics to screen theatrically if they have been dubbed in another country, legislation designed to protect the dubbing industry in France. But there is no such law for DVDs and some Quebec-made dubs of DVDs have been released in France, where they have been well-received, per Des Roches.
The question of Quebec dubs of Hollywood films has once again become a political issue here, with the Union des Artistes recently appearing at the National Assembly in Quebec City to plead for help in forcing the studios to dub their films en francais in Quebec. Last year, 106 of 145 pics released theatrically in Quebec, repping 73% of the total, were dubbed using local thesps.
But the actors union is particularly worried about the situation with DVDs. Only 203 of the 1,169 DVDs released in Quebec in 2007 included French dubs and, worse yet for the local industry, a mere 38 of those were dubbed here in the province.
Yves Dion, president of Montreal-based distributor TVA Films, notes that it’s all a question of dubbing economics.
“We have to make sure that we have French dubs,” Dion says. “You have to distribute in the country’s language and here there are two languages. For my films, often there are dubs made in France. But if the film really deserves it and it’s a very commercial film and if there’s no French version, then we’ll do one. But we can’t dub every film. Look at the small films. If it’s not economically viable, I think it’ll be tough to impose a law.”
The Union des Artistes was initially pushing for just such a law, forcing every distributor to provide made-in-Quebec French dubs, but the provincial government is completely opposed to this. So now the union is now more focused on the notion of trying to come up with a deal between the province and the studios that would ensure at least the majority of pics are dubbed here.
But it’s far from clear such a deal is likely to find many supporters other than from the dubbing industry in Quebec. Some believe the studios might try to punish Quebec if they were forced to provide more dubs, perhaps by refusing to shoot pics here.