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Sylvain L'Espérance

Sylvain L'Espérance
Born in Montreal in 1961, Sylvain L'Espérance studied film and visual arts. For the past 25 years, he has travelled widely, from Quebec to Mali to Greece. He has directed nearly a dozen films that combine direct cinema with experimental research to explore reality through a poetic lens. His films question our relationships with outsiders and marginalized communities. They give voice to migrants, workers, artisans, sailors, fishermen, shepherds, the unemployed and the homeless. These voices are carried by street theatre, song and poetry and merge into a political cry that speaks the unspoken.

L'Espérance's films are selected and presented by prestigious documentary festivals around the world. Many of his films have won major awards. In 2010, Intérieurs du delta (Into the Delta) won the Award for Best Director at the Festival Dei Popoli in Florence. In 2013, the Munich Dok.fest awarded Sur le Rivage du monde (Standing on the Edge of the World) the International Competition Award.


Bamako temps suspendu
documentary / 2014 / Quebec / 30 minutes
Two musicians perform in a courtyard in Bamako, Mali. A quest for harmony; knowing glances and comforting presences; time marches on.

Sur le rivage du monde (Standing on the Edge of the World)
documentary / 2012 / Quebec / 105 minutes

Grand Prize, International Competition, DOK.fest (Munich, Germany), 2013

Official competition, Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal (Montreal, Canada), 2012
Official selection, Milano Film Festival, (Milan, Italy), 2013
Official selection, Rencontres cinématographiques de Hergla, (Hergla, Tunisia), 2013
After several failed attempts to reach Europe, César, Félou and Érik find themselves in Bamako, Mali – deported but still driven to pursue their dreams. Meanwhile Amih fights with unshakeable determination to escape a life of unfulfillment and forge a brighter future for herself and her children.

Intérieurs du delta (Into the Delta)
documentary / 2009 / Quebec / 76 minutes

Best director Award, Festival dei Popoli (Florence, Italy), 2010

Official competition, Visions du Réel (Nyon, Switzerland), 2010
Official competition, Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal (Montreal, Canada), 2010

Official competition, Festival Filmer le travail (Poitiers, France), 2011
Official selection, DOK.fest (Munich, Germany), 2010
The life of a family of fishermen, in the inland delta of the Niger river in Mali, is stricken by the effects of globalization: the rise of the price of oil and basic goods, the collapse of fish stocks and the signs of global warming. The film reflects the passage of traditions, a relation to history and memory in a region where persist traces of the origins of things.

Un fleuve humain (The River Where We Live)
documentary / 2006 / Quebec / 92 minutes

Special Mention, Caméra-stylo Award, Rencontres int. du documentaire de Montréal (Montreal, Canada), 2006
Finalist, Jutra Award for Best documentary, 2006

Finalist, Best feature lenght Award from l’Association 
québécoise des critiques de cinéma, 2006

Official competition, Cinéma du réel (Paris, France), 2007

Official competition, DOK.fest (Munich, Germany
), 2007
Official competition, Hot Docs (Toronto, Canada), 2007
Official competition, Brooklyn International Film Festival (New York, USA), 2007
Official competition, Festival dei Popoli (Florence, Italy), 2007

Official competition, International Documentary Festival Jihlava (Jihlava, Czech Republic), 2007
Official selection, Yogyakarta Documentary Film Festival-FFD (Yogyakarta, Indonesia), 2007
The interior delta of the Niger River in Mali. The river crosses a vast plain in the heart of the Sahel. It is a vivid patchwork of canals, rivers, lakes, islands, seas, prairies and flood zones. Throughout this territory, human societies have learned to live together, in a symbiotic relationship with the cycles and movements of the river. During the dry season, as water levels began receding, I went to encounter the people of the delta - artisans, merchants, navigators, herders and fishermen - leaving in search of a human portrait of the river...

La main invisible (The Invisible Hand)
documentary / 2002 / Quebec / 75 minutes

Best Canadian documentary Award, Vues d’Afrique (Montreal, Canada), 2003

Official competition, Cinéma du réel (Paris, France), 2003
Official competition, Hot Docs (Toronto, Canada), 2003
Official selection, Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal (Montreal, Canada), 2002
Official selection, États généraux du film documentaire de Lussas (Lussas, France), 2004
The African country of Guinea contains the biggest bauxite deposits in the world. However, the profits from the extraction of this ore, which is used to produce aluminum, does not go to the Guineans. Despite this, beside the capital’s factories are all kinds of craftsmen, who melt down used aluminum cans to make new objects necessary for the lives of the community, making them into pots, bricks, drums and even antennas. This artisan activity, and manual work in general, are celebrated in a symbolic way by the dance troupe Soleil d'Afrique, evoking through their choreography the nourishing relationship of men and the women to the earth.

Le temps qu'il fait
documentary / 1997 / Quebec / 66 minutes

Official competition, Visions du réel (Nyon, Switzerland), 1997
Official selection, Festival international du nouveau cinéma de Montréal (Montreal, Canada), 1997
Nestor, Leï, Pierette, Mohamed, Hafida, Marius, Marc, Galina, Genady, Mike and Lala: each has a unique perspective on where life has led them. The film is a mosaic of narratives built on intertwined hopes, dreams, worries and disappointments about the present and future of ordinary people who are part of the so-called silent majority.

Meanwhile, from the new landscapes of financial centres, abandoned industrial spaces and vacant lots, we hear echoes of economists’ and politicians’ pronouncements urging humanity to embrace the new economy. Indifferent to the injunctions of these masters of the world, the men and women in the film resist quietly through their pursuit of occupations that allow them to build their lives. Gradually, an image of the world comes into focus, in which there is a complete disconnect between the logic of the economy and the ebb and flow of life. A disconnect that reflects the world in our time.

Les printemps incertains (Shadows of Spring)
documentary / 1992 / Quebec / 52 minutes

Broadcasts Radio-Canada, CTV
Emerging from the multiple perspectives of this film, a memory of a neighbourhood is recreated which tells of the fragility of working class habitats residents and workers from southwest Montréal recount its tragic history: The immigration and settling of the Irish in the 19th century the expropriation of Griffintown the destruction of Goose village. The industrial decline of Pointe-Saint-Charles and surroundings.

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