Documentary essay, filmed during an Atlantic crossing aboard a cargo ship. A film about immensity and faith, about the uninterrupted movements of the waves and their power. Transatlantic tells the story of the journey and daily life aboard and reveals the ship as a microcosm and a metaphor : a human island in the heart of a great elsewhere.
My grandfather was a sailor, and still went to sea when I was a child. Each time he came back, he brought us gifts and stories from the countries he had visited. For a long time, these left me with an alluring vision of travel filled with romanticism and freedom. Later, as an adult, I understood that his life had none of the romanticism I had projected onto it as a child. Life as a sailor is filled with hard and lonely men, fathers who barely know their children, husbands who are strangers to their own wives.
An examination of these men’s lives reveals a hidden, but fundamental, cog in globalization and the international economy. Where many would have chosen to decry the challenges of a sailor’s experience through film, Félix Dufour-Laperrière chose to capture its poetry. He honours the respectful silence of these men and the way old Indian songs call up their recollections with all the force of an incantation, recollections which are quickly exaggerated. Each shot is patient and magnificently framed. The black-and-white film, retouched by Dufour-Laperrière, an animation filmmaker, lends his work an atypical beauty—a soft gravity that sways between fantasy and nostalgia, supported by the sober effectiveness of its delicate soundtrack.
The life of these men, structured entirely around the routine of daily tasks and the vessel’s slow rolls, reminded me of the words of another sailor I once met: “Being a sailor is like being in prison. We just get paid.” The fact that there’s no escape from a ship in the middle of the ocean was left unsaid.
Born in 1981 in Quebec, Félix Dufour-Laperrière is a director, screenwriter and producer. His work, which shows a constant tension between narrative and formal exploration, maintains a close connection with the visual and contemporary arts. His films, among which the documentary Transatlantique (IFFR Rotterdam 2014), have been presented in numerous festivals, museums and events of importance, where they have won several awards. Ville Neuve (2018), his first animated feature, drawn and painted entirely on paper, had its world premiere at the Mostra (Venice Days) and has since been released in theaters in Quebec, France and Japan. His animated documentary essay, Archipelago, is premiering in 2021 in competition in Rotterdam. He now works on his third feature animated film, Death Does Not Exist.