The naturalism and honesty of French-language coming-of-age drama Gabrielle has earned it kudos from film festivals around the world, but now director Louise Archambault is preparing to unveil it to a wider Canadian audience.
Canada's choice for Oscar foreign-language film consideration, the film stars Gabrielle Marion-Rivard as a young woman with Williams syndrome, a genetic disorder characterized by intellectual disability, heart problems and unusual facial features, but also strong sociability and, often, an aptitude for language and music.
Marion-Rivard, who has Williams syndrome, plays the film's gifted young singer who falls for another member of her choir and seeks love and independence.
Along with newcomer Marion-Rivard, the cast also features real-life choristers drawn from a Montreal arts centre for those with special needs.
"If you see the film, [you see] they have talent and they have personalities — a lot of personality — and I did learn a lot," the filmmaker told CBC News.
In the attached video, Archambault talks to CBC's Eli Glasner about casting her lead, drawing the best from her non-professional cast members and balancing humour and sensitivity in exploring the often taboo topic of sexual intimacy for the developmentally challenged.
Gabrielle opens in Toronto and Ottawa on Friday, in Edmonton on Jan. 17 and Vancouver and Winnipeg on Jan. 24.