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Liberty and love: Tuesday Cinéfest gala film about back-to-the-land Northern Quebec hermits

Louise Archambault said she'll be on hand to answer questions from audience after Sudbury screening

Montréal filmmaker Louise Archambault's film “Il pleuvait des oiseaux” is set very close to Northern Ontario — in Abitibi, Que.

The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month, but after that, it's coming to Northern Ontario. It's the Tuesday, Sept. 17 gala film at Cinéfest International Film Festival.

“Il pleuvait des oiseaux” is about about three hermits living in cabins in the Quebec countryside, miles from civilization. 

Tom (Rémy Girard), Charlie (Gilbert Sicotte), and Ted (Kenneth Welsh) fled society years ago, and have eked out a back-to-the-land existence, selling pot to the closest locals with help from local hotelier Stephen (Éric Robidoux).

But their lifestyle is increasingly endangered by nature, infirmity, and age. 

While wildfires threaten the region, their quiet life is about to be shaken by the arrival of two women, a luminous octogenarian, unjustly institutionalized her whole life, and a young photographer charged with interviewing survivors of the region’s deadliest forest fire. 

After the death of the eldest hermit, the two women make an astonishing discovery: hundreds of paintings echoing his tragic experience related to that devastating fire.

A French-language film with English subtitles — the English translation of its title is “And the Birds Rained Down” — the piece is based on Canadian author Jocelyne Saucier's 2011 book. 

Archambault, whose 2013 film “Gabrielle” also screened at Cinéfest, said Saucier's book made a big impression on her.   

“I thought about that story and those characters and I saw those images for like a few months, and then I was like 'Gosh, I see a film,'” she said.

“Because there was something about that story, you know — an openness … I think it's a nod to love and life.”

The film features several elderly characters, but Archambault said it's not a film about old age. “It's a film about love, and liberty as well,” she said.

Although set in Abitibi, the filmmaker said due to cost, it wasn't shot there — filming instead took place in Quebec's Forêt Montmorency and Laurentian Mountains.

Archambault said she's excited to have the film screen at Cinéfest, and is flying in for the occasion to take part in a question and answer session with audience members following the screening. 

“I remember I had a great time at Sudbury for the film 'Gabrielle,'” she said. “People are so, so cool, the festivallers and stuff.”
Cinéfest runs this year from Sept. 14-22. Check out Cinéfest's website for a full film schedule and to purchase tickets. 

You can check out the trailer for “Il pleuvait des oiseaux” below.