The Filmmakers

Thanks to a Montreal performing arts school, Gabrielle broke boundaries for actors with disabilities

Louise Archambault discovered her film's star Gabrielle Marion-Rivard at Les Muses, a program that offers training to artists living with disabilities.

Director Louise Archambault discovered her film's star Gabrielle Marion-Rivard at Les Muses

Amanda Parris (left) sits with Les Muses founder Cindy Schwartz (left) and actress Gabrielle Marion-Rivard (right). (John Murphy/CBC)

When she was looking for the lead actress for her film Gabrielle, director Louise Archambault's research led her to Les Muses, a performing arts program that offers training to artists living with disabilities. There, she found her star: Gabrielle Marion-Rivard.

In our panel discussion with host Amanda Parris on The Filmmakers, Les Muses founder Cindy Schwartz explains how important the film was in giving special needs performers well-deserved exposure.

Watch the panel:

The Filmmakers panel - Gabrielle

CBC Arts

2 years agoVideo
7:04
Cindy Schwartz and Gabrielle Marion-Rivard discuss representation of performers with special needs. 7:04
People with disabilities...have incredible abilities to act, to dance, to sing and to do much more visual arts.- Cindy Schwartz

After starring in the film, Marion-Rivard — who has Williams syndrome — won the 2014 Canadian Screen Award for best actress. She plays a young woman who falls in love with a boy in her choir and tries to navigate dating for the first time. She's also a singer in her everyday life — which is how Archambault discovered her at Les Muses.

"People with disabilities are extraordinary people," says Marion-Rivard. "They want to work, learn, sing, dance, be in shows."

Marion-Rivard has been working on several dance and theatre productions since starring in the film. Next February, she'll star in Cendres, a play about the end of the world, alongside Marilyn Perreault and Oliver Rousseau. The play, which also incorporates contemporary jig, is being choreographed by Les Muses teacher Menka Nagrani.

The film has also had lasting positive effects for the school. "We have casting directors [who are] starting to recognize that there are people who are trained and should be hired," says Schwartz.

Stream the film and check out the interview and panel discussion in the full episode of The Filmmakers.

Season 2 of The Filmmakers airs Saturdays, July 28 at 8:30pm ET/CT/MT, 9:30pm AT, 10PM NT and 11pm PT on CBC TV.​ Stream it at cbc.ca/watch.​

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