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France Benoit

Region: 
North Slave
Community: 
Yellowknife
Phone: 
(867) 873-1101
Address: 
Box 1841
Yellowknife, NT X1A 2P4

Artist Story

There is this moment after you a film premiere, when you turn the lights on and you can see the people’s reaction to your film before they get their composure. That moment is when you know if you have touched people or not. The most important thing about being a filmmaker is to be a good storyteller. I like stories about the North, and some come in French, some in English.

I am foremost an activist and the issues of social justice are paramount to what I do as a documentary filmmaker.

My first film was completed in 2003; Western Arctic Moving Pictures, Yellowknife's film co-op, helped me get my start. It was the right time, the right story. I thought it would be a one-time thing but I decided to keep going. There are so many wonderful stories and important issues to tell here, how could I stop?

When I decided to leave my big government job and follow my heart I did not really know where it would lead me. .  I felt I needed to start with a clean slate and let my life fill up with new and different  passions. I didn’t know filmmaking would be that, or anything artistic for that matter. It speaks to the importance of being open to life.

One of the things I like the most about the film community here is we are not in competition with each other and we have all found our niche. Artists give life to a community and that unique role is not often recognized. People may move here for the job opportunities, but it is nature, , culture and the artistic community that make them stay, it has more of an impact than people might think. 

Artist Bio: 

France Benoit was born and raised in Marieville, Québec. She discovered the majestic allure of Canada’s Far North during a student exchange in 1981. After her undergraduate degree in political science and international relations at the University of Ottawa, she completed a masters degree in Polar Studies from Cambridge University. Benoit moved to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories in 1989, where she began a 12-year career as a policy advisor and manager with the territorial department of education. During that time, she moved into a log house by a lake in the wilderness where, inspired by the beauty of her natural surroundings, she began a journey of rebirth and discovery. She left the civil service to pursue a writing career in 2001. That Christmas, while visiting her husband’s family in Kelowna, British Columbia, she came across a mystery box of family heirlooms that originated in Cuba. Bit by bit she unraveled those mysteries until she had pieced together the story of Alicia, a woman exiled from her homeland in the post-Castro era. Alicia and the Mystery Box written, produced and directed by Benoit is her first film. Ever since, what inhabits her thoughts and nurtures her dreams is to tell the stories from her adoptive land. In 2008, in collaboration with Winnipeg's Productions Rivard, Radio-Canada and RDI, France completed a second documentary, One river, two shores: Reflections on the Mackenzie Gas Project. This film depicts the environmental, socio-cultural and spiritual impacts of a proposed natural gas pipeline project which would largely follow the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories in Canada's North. France committed to take the time to reflect collectively on this 1200-km long project, before it was built. In the spring of 2007, she undertook two journeys, an inner personal journey and another one which took her along the route of the future gas pipeline. She wanted to hear the voices of people who have lived along the river for thousands of years, people she'd so often heard of. Just as a river has two shores, France knew there would be some people who would be mainly in favour of the project, others who would be mainly against it. The film is based on the four seasons. France Benoit, her husband Doug Ritchie and their dog Griffin live self-sufficiently in the boreal forest outside of Yellowknife, pumping their water from the lake, heating their home from wood and drawing their energy from the sun. Biographie France Benoit fut élevée à Marieville au Québec. Elle découvrit le charme majestueux du Grand Nord lors d'un échange d'étudiants en 1981. Après l'obtention d'un baccalauréat en sciences politiques et en relations internationales à l'Université d'Ottawa, elle compléta une maîtrise en Études polaires à l'Université de Cambridge en Angleterre. En 1989, France déménage à Yellowknife aux Territoires du Nord-Ouest, où elle commence une carrière de 12 ans comme conseillère politique et gestionnaire au sein du ministère territorial de l'éducation. À cette époque, elle aménage dans une maisons en bois ronds sur le bord d'un lac en pleine forêt où, inspirée par la beauté naturelle de son milieu, elle entame un périple de renouveau et de découverte. Elle quitte la fonction publique en 2001 afin de se consacrer à l'écriture. Lors des vacances de Noël qui suivirent, en visite dans la famille de son mari à Kelowna en Colombie-britannique, elle tombe par hasard sur une mystérieuse boîte d'origine cubaine. Petit par petit, elle finit par élucider tous les mystères entourant la boîte jusqu'à ce qu'elle puisse nous dépeindre l'histoire d'Alicia, une femme exilée de son pays après la prise de pouvoir de Castro. « La boîte d'Alicia » (2004) écrit, produit et réalisé par France est son premier film. Depuis, l'envie de raconter les histoires de sa terre d'adoption habite ses pensées et nourrit ses rêves. En 2008, en collaboration avec les Productions Rivard de Winnipeg, Radio-Canada et RDI, France termine un deuxième documentaire, «Pays du fleuve Mackenzie, un gazoduc au coeur d'un peuple ». Celui-ci porte sur les répercussions environnementales, socio-culturelles et spirituelles d'un méga-projet de gazoduc qui longerait en grande partie le fleuve Mackenzie aux Territoires du Nord-Ouest. France a voulu prendre le temps de réfléchir collectivement sur ce gazoduc de plus de 1200 kilomètres, avant sa construction. Au printemps 2007, elle entreprit deux périples: un long voyage intérieur et un autre qui l'amena à suivre le tracé du futur gazoduc. Elle voulait donner la parole à ceux qui vivent le long de ce fleuve depuis des millénaires, des gens don’t elle avait longtemps entendu parler. Tout comme un fleuve a deux rives, elle se doutait bien qu'il y en aurait qui seraient plutôt pour, et d'autres plutôt contre ce projet. France, son mari Doug ainsi que leur chien Griffin vivent dans la forêt boréale à l'orée de Yellowknife pompant leur eau du lac, chauffant leur maison au bois et puisant leur énergie du soleil.

Last Updated: October 6, 2015

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