The Press in Cannes |  Cinema at the crossroads

Steak, corn, potatoes

It was almost 11pm on a Friday night and what were these few dozen college students doing? They weren’t having a drink in a bar, they weren’t they were getting cold not in a park, they did not watch a series on Netflix or play online on their video game console (the idea that we generally have of the activities of a Cegep student on Friday nights).

Posted yesterday at 11:00 am

They blackened pages of their own texts: stories, poems, humorous texts or songs. Romane hasn’t slept all night. She wrote, practically nonstop, for 24 hours. The column I “ordered” had to be 2,000 words. Or was she a critic? It would not be surprising on the part of this great reader.

It was Gilbert Forest who invited me to speak to CEGEP students last week, as part of the 32me intercollegiate writing marathon. The head of socio-cultural activities at Cégep André-Laurendeau has been in charge of this event from the beginning. It was his last marathon. He will retire in a few months.

I was there for a chronicle and critique workshop. And suggest a topic to the students. I suggested three. They might critique a piece of work that has recently inspired them, for better or worse. They could write a column on the reality show double occupancy : have we talked about it too much or, on the contrary, all excuses are good to denounce bullying?

They might also reflect on a question I often ask myself: should we be concerned about young people’s lack of interest in Quebec’s popular culture, or are we alarmists when we fear the long-term impact of this disaffection? I formulated this last topic in such an approximate way that the CEGEP students baptized it, at my suggestion, “the fuzzy topic”.

For an hour and a half, I answered questions from twenty CEGEP students, all as relevant as the others.

The first student who raised her hand asked me something, using a term —perhaps inspired by philology— that was foreign to me.

“I could pretend I understood your question, but I’m going to need a dictionary!” I answered into the microphone. My ignorance at least amused them.

The honorary president of the marathon was none other than Claude Meunier. I found that ironic. Two days later, his photo (in Popa de the little life) accurately illustrated my report on youth and the future of popular culture. “All I know of the little life, is the expression ‘steak, corn, potato’”, specified one of the marathoners, reading his column aloud. A student of Korean origin, whose parents perhaps wondered one day what was so Chinese about this “cake”.

Had her parents arrived in Quebec without knowing a word of French? Here she delivered with the poise and spirit of a seasoned humorist a text in which he explained where he came from, where she was and where she was going. As well as why people my age shouldn’t worry too much about their cultural habits. He may not watch Quebec TV, like most young people his age, but he listens to Émile Bilodeau and Les Louanges, and thinks it’s “brilliant.”

Another participant, also of Asian origin, revealed that she, too, had not been immersed in Québec culture in her youth. Her cultural identity was built through school and the books she found in the library. She admitted to being concerned about her own bias towards works in English, but she recalled that she had chosen to be there, and spend the night there, to write fiction or opinion pieces in French, a language to which she is attached.

I also spoke with three Afro-descendant girls who questioned their legitimacy to be able to express themselves on the subject of the future of culture, implying that they did not feel Quebecois enough. Why haven’t we made them feel enough?

Is this Quebec popular culture that I was telling you about interested in them? Obviously not enough.

I said “Wow” four or five times after listening to the CEGEP students read their texts. They must have found, especially for a columnist, that I lacked vocabulary. They had already understood that I was not strong in philology. I confided in them, very clumsily, how much they had impressed me. Not that I expected you to be amorphous or jaded, but, finally, you understand… They understood.

I learned from their reflections not only that they have a sense of beginning, of falling, and that they have varied interests (from Naomi says yes from Geneviève Albert to the films of Thomas Vinterberg), but also that they are not his parents. It doesn’t matter if they or their parents were born in Busan or Gaspé, they have their own codes and their own referents. Some Quebecers, others international, since they have the culture of the planet at their fingertips.

What I especially remember is that they are terribly enlightened and inspiring. They come from everywhere, from Joliette (where they have a film club) or from Jacmel. They are Quebec. The one I meet every weekend in Mount Royal. This perpetual festival of colors. It was almost midnight. I returned home, galvanized by these students. Much hope.

#Steak #corn #potatoes

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