Guy Édoin says he had a great advantage shooting his first feature film, Marécages (Wetlands). The story is set entirely on a farm in rural Quebec and is about a gay 14-year-old desperate to escape the social isolation and economic hardship of his childhood home.
“We shot the whole thing on my parents’ farm,” Édoin says. “If the shoot went on a bit too long or if we needed a tractor or a dead cow, that was all easy. I don’t know if strangers would have let us do all the things we were able to.”
It was a fitting location because the story is very much autobiographical. “But I’ve added a great deal of fiction,” Édoin concedes.
In Marécages, the teen boy, Simon (subtly played by Gabriel Maillé), struggles to remain respectful of his parents (played by Luc Picard and Pascale Bussières), who are angry their son doesn’t want anything to do with the family business. Meanwhile, the couple tries desperately to keep the operation afloat despite mounting costs and a crippling debt.
Édoin says he was thrilled to assemble such a strong cast. Queer film buffs will recognize Bussières right away from her turn in Patricia Rozema’s When Night Is Falling (1995), in which she played a woman who realizes she’s a lesbian after falling for Rachel Crawford. That film features such steamy gal-on-gal love scenes it earned Bussières a seriously loyal lavender following. “I’ve received some interesting mail over the years,” Bussières once told me.
“Pascale turned down the part at first,” Édoin says. “She said she loved the screenplay but had just finished doing a play and knew the part would be very demanding. I asked her to think about it over a long weekend and said we would meet on the Monday. When we met she said she hadn’t slept all weekend because she was thinking about the film. I convinced her to change her mind. I’m so happy she did because now I can’t imagine anyone else taking on the role.”
Édoin confirms that making a film is a huge amount of work but says his $2.9 million in backing came together fairly quickly, in part because the short films he’d made previously did well on the festival circuit. He says a real high came in one two-week period last summer when he learned that Marécages had been invited to both the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), where it was to open the Canada First section.
“They really love Quebec films at TIFF,” Édoin says. “They were very supportive with my short films as well.”
That kicked off an entire odyssey on the film-fest circuit, as Édoin, now 31, travelled with a print of his movie for introductions and question-and-answer sessions after screenings.
“I was in my apartment for fewer than 15 days over four months,” he says. “It was a really lovely journey.”
And are his parents, who graciously supplied their farm as a shooting location, offended that the film’s central character is someone who is desperate to leave?
“Oh no, they totally understand that it’s fiction,” he says. “They were so proud to be part of it and so proud of me. My mother would phone me every day to ask where the film was screening and what the latest update on its success was.”