‘Tintin’ dub puts accent on Quebec’s quandary

Spielberg pic to enter Canadian province with French dub

The French of Paris or the French of Quebec? It’s a question that the Union des Artistes, the main actors union in the Francophone province, has been wrestling with for years.

The Dec. 9 launch of “The Adventures of Tintin” in Quebec underlines that ironic wrinkle in Canada’s unique French-language marketplace; the Steven Spielberg adaptation of the famed Belgian comicbook will enter this mostly French-speaking province of Canada with a made-in-France dub.

The Union has long put pressure on the Hollywood studios to dub more of their movies in Quebec using local talent — and the lobbying has paid off. Last year, 85% of the French dubs of Hollywood movies released in Quebec were done in Quebec. That’s a big rise over the past three years. In 2007, only 77% of the Hollywood studio movies were dubbed in Quebec.

The vast majority of the French dubs produced in Quebec are in what industry players here call “international French” — in other words, it doesn’t reflect the true Quebecois accent. Among the exceptions in the TV world, most notably, is “Les Simpsons,” which is dubbed in street-wise Quebecois French that’s very popular with local viewers.

If the studios dub a film in Quebec, they have to make two French dubs — one for Quebec and another for France and the rest of the francophonie.

On a film like “Tintin,” which debuted internationally, the dub had to have a wider focus.

Paramount is the studio that dubs the least in Quebec, with only 54% of its movies dubbed in Quebec last year, though that was up from 38% in 2007.

In the past, the Union des Artistes has pushed for a provincial law to force the majors to dub all their movies here, a law similar to the one that exists in France.

“If it’s going to be an exportable dub, it has to be in international French,” says the union’s president Raymond Legault. “So we have to convince the studios that our dubs are of very good quality. It seems to be working, but we have to keep pressing them.”

Legault has softened the actors group’s approach in recent years, preferring to work with the studios behind closed doors.

Quebec film commissioner Hans Fraikin says it would be a mistake to draw any conclusions from the fact “Tintin” was not dubbed in Quebec.

“You can’t make a big deal out of a one-off,” Fraikin says. n