Drifting States (2005) - full transcript

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The digitization
of this film preserves

all the attributes
of the original work.

It was achieved thanks to

The Memory of Quebec Cinema

I who believed you
a great omnipotent god

see that you are but a has-been,
a no-account wannabe.

Look, as I bend down to draw
a long dagger from my boot!




Located 1,500 kilometres
north of Montreal,

the village of Radisson lies
at the very end of James Bay Road.

Founded in 1974
to accommodate workers

who came to complete
the "Project of the Century,"

it is the only
non-Native community in Quebec

north of the 53rd parallel.

Located in the heart
of the La Grande hydroelectric complex,

Radisson is home to some 400 people.

- Hello, sir.
- Hello.

Would you like a room?


One night only?

Or more?

Two nights.

Single occupancy?

Under what name?

Christian Fauteux.

- Where from?
- Montreal.

A little warmer there.

Two nights, including tax,

comes to $195.55.

Will that be cash or charge?


No problem.

Room 115, a very--

Make that three nights.

Three nights? No problem.

We'll just add one to the bill.

- Hello there.
- Hello.

- How are you?
- Good. And you?


Not too tired from the drive?

- Is it that obvious?
- Yes, sir.

Nice little church you've got here.


For a small, amiable community.

- Amiable?
- When it suits them.

I toured the village…

but I didn't find the cemetery.

We have a burial ground.

but it's inconspicuous,
marked by just two red posts.

We don't bury our dead here.

Few people die here.

When they do,

their families
fly their remains home.

What about those born here?

Some workers have died
during their five-to-ten-year stay.

But half the people
leave after five years.

After making a little money.

OK, then.

- What's your name?
- Marianne.

You're playing here alone?

Yes, but my mom's over there.

Oh, your mom's over there.

And your dad?

He's home.

Home? He works here?

Yes. At the Hydro Quebec substation.

- You're in school?
- Yes.

How old are you?


- You like coins?
- Yes.

I have something to show you.

Something very special.

This is a quarter.

Hold it in your hand.

With this quarter,

you can do something unheard-of.

First, you dig a hole.

It doesn't have to be very deep.

But deep enough
that it stays buried.

Now you put the quarter in.

Then you bury it.

But once buried,
you must be able to find it.

These stones will mark the spot. Right?


Every time you come back here to play,

you must water it.

You don't need much.
Just a little.

Water the rocks
to make sure it gets underneath.

Then, money will grow.

- You believe me?
- Yes.

Money will grow for sure.


You need a pass card to get in.

- You don't work for Hydro, do you?
- No.

You're not from Radisson either.

Is it OK if I use the pool?

If you let your hair grow,
you'll need a bathing cap.

We can spot newcomers here
a mile away.

Can I help you with something?

There's the door.



Euthanasia is… killing someone.

Sometimes at the hospital…

But it's supervised, basically.

It's assisted suicide.

You have to be damn sure
before going through with it.

If you know it will be
too hard on you after,

always having your mother's death
on your conscience, forget it.

I'm for it if the person
is deathly ill and suffering,

and you know it's what they want.

But not if it's for selfish reasons,

to ease your burden.

In that case,
just leave her at the hospital.

Live your life
and visit when you can.

Miracles do happen.

Someone can be very ill…

but later recover.

Some people live with cancer
for ten years.

Would you leave the house or stay?

I'd stay, or I'd always
have it on my conscience.

I could never escape
knowing I killed her.

Wouldn't you be afraid
of her spirit or something?

It's true! If you stay in the house
in which you killed her…

I sure wouldn't stay there.

I'm afraid of death,

because I still have
a lot left to do.

It depends.

If I live to, or past, 75,

I know I've done everything
I set out to do.

I wouldn't really be afraid of dying.

But I'd be afraid to die this young,

not having lived a full life.

There's no afterlife.

You're dead and buried.

Right. Six feet under.

Yes, but what happens
to your spirit after?

You stay by your loved ones.

You watch over them.

- When you die?
- Yes.

Some say you come back
as a rabbit or a dog--

Not necessarily.
That's reincarnation.

You can come back as anything,
another person.

But you'll never know
about your past life.

I'm not saying I'm not afraid.

There might be nothing
but darkness on the other side.

Like sleep.

Nothing happens.

There could also be a better world.

That would be okay.

You know, like another life.

Turn right, here at the entrance.


Not this one, but the next.

All this is reserved for Hydro?

Yes, that's the Hydro Quebec
housing development.

Radisson encompasses the village
and the Hydro buildings here.

Those are their living quarters.

Don't they live with their families?

Rarely. They have maybe
two family furloughs a year.

And residents live
in the adjacent houses.

Right. Turn left here at the stop sign.

Residents live around here,
in the trailers.

You work for Hydro?

No, not for Hydro.
I work for the village.

Aren't you a firefighter?
That's what it says there.

Firefighter and ambulance driver.
I work for the village.

- Where are the Cree Indians?
- In Chisasibi.

- Not here?
- Turn right, here.

No, the reserve is about
an hour and a half away.

They shop here:
video poker, booze…

It's a "dry" reserve,
so they come here to party.

- What's "dry"?
- Alcohol-free.

Banned by the Grand Chief.

Slow down here.

Pull in just past the RV.

- Here?
- Yes.

You can park here.

I'll give you the keys.
It's vacant for a couple of months.

You sure it's OK?

Really, it's fine. Come.
It's no problem.

Don't repaint,
don't throw anything out.

Guys who need to get away,

I understand that.

Keep your nose clean,
mind your own business.

and the villagers
will come to accept you.

Thank you.

I have a little money.
Not much, but--

That's OK. Never mind.
You need anything, call me.

- He's talking about you!
- Is he now?

- Hey, how are you?
- Good. You?

What are you doing here?

- You know everyone?
- Yeah.

I know everyone.

Good to see you.

You, too.

Hey, Nancy,
a beer for my friend.

- What'll it be?
- Molson Dry, please.

- I'm allowed one.
- Of course!

- Just one tonight?
- Just one. I'm the ambulance driver.

That right?

You can have two.
We won't tell.

- One is fine.
- OK, then!

It's the right brand, anyway.

That's good. Thanks.


- Doing well?
- Yes, very well.

I'm very happy.

I'm very happy tonight.

I feel at home in the house.

It's odd. It's not home,
but it feels like it.

It's home for a couple of months.

You drive the ambulance every night?

Every night, 24/7.

- So it's always just one beer.
- Just one.


Being drunk on the job
wouldn't be too bright.

Driving an ambulance drunk
isn't recommended.


Whatever the case,
one is enough.

- One woman, one beer--
- Everything in moderation.

- One woman, one beer, one child--
- That's right!


Look how she smiles!

See how she smiles
when we say her name?


Hey, these Sour Pusses are good!

You're the one who'll be sick!
No big deal.

I'm gonna be sick.
I'm gonna be sick!

I'm gonna be sick soon!

How did this James Bay venture all start?

With the river behind us.

A turbulent, awesome river.

That's how it all began.

We set out to tame this river.

To improve our quality of life.

But this took men and women,

who didn't have it easy.

They experienced great hardship,

unimaginable hardship.

I sometimes tell people
that in 1971,

when the first non-Natives
came to live here

and flew over Matagami,
by helicopter or hydroplane,

the pilots had to map out
lakes and fishing grounds

with pen and paper

so as to find their way back.

Hard to imagine that 30 years ago,

before GPS systems or satellites,

one still navigated
by pen and paper.

All those who came
to work in James Bay

are proud of it.

When they return,

coming full circle,
on a pilgrimage,

like Arabs going to Mecca, say,

they're completely overcome.

When they visit Boyd Park,

let's be honest,

I've seen people leave in tears.

It evokes powerful emotions.

I think all Quebecers
should come here

to see their legacy.

In order to know
where we're going,

we must know
where we come from.

Coming to James Bay
is going back to our roots.

It's a page of history
as important as that of the farmers

who opened up, say,
the Abitibi region.

Or the lumberjacks who opened up
the northern Mauricie region,

around or north of La Tuque.

These are very important pages
of our history,

which we cannot dismiss
or allow to sink into oblivion.

I suspect you'd like to steer.

You'd like that, huh?

I don't know…

Take over. Nice and slow.

- Seriously?
- Sure.

- You're kidding.
- No. Go ahead.

You've got your throttle controls here.

- I hold that?
- Here, you've got your RPMs.

The right engine
is running at 300 RPMs.

Sorry, 3,000 RPMs.

The left engine always runs slower,
at 2,700 RPMs.

This is the speedometer.
We're going about 12 MPH.

See the Braves waterfall just ahead?

I see water,
running down a mountainside.

- Like down a rock face.
- Yeah.

Is that where you jumped?

That's where I swam.

- How long ago?
- A couple of years.

Would you do it again today?

Sure. Just not buck naked!

I've got nothing more to prove.
My reputation is made.

Nice day.

Beautiful scenery, too.

The colours are changing
and it's moose-mating season.

Think we'll hear a moose call?

You'd have to call him.

Ever called a moose?

You want to give it a try?

You gotta try it,
since you're here.

- How's it done?
- You scream "Moose!" real loud.

Go ahead.

Come on. No one can hear us.

We're all alone out here.
Shout it out!


He didn't hear you.
Try again.

- Are you serious?
- If you want him to come out…

- Impressive, isn't it?
- Sure is.

A little unnatural,
but certainly impressive.

Are you a tourist?

Somewhat, but not really.

I'm a photographer,
doing a project on wolves.

I'm tracking them.

Around here?

Yes, I'm scouting the area
around the dikes.

A little farther south, too.

- You're tracking the wolves?
- Yes.

I'm camped out
near the dump over there.

I've set up camp
amidst a wolf pack,

and I'm tracking it
little by little.

It's slow going, but…

it's coming along.

How long have you been at it?

A year now.

You've been tracking wolves
for a year?

That's right.

It's coming along.

What about you?

I'm settling in. Gradually.

In Radisson.

Slowly but surely.

It's odd, such a big pool
for such a small village.

You're new in town?

I'm gradually settling in.

My name is Sarah.

You plan on coming here often?

I guess so. Winter's coming.
It must be Deadsville here.

Going to the party
Saturday night?

I don't know many people.

How did you end up here,
in the back of beyond?

That's personal.

The best thing about living here
is the beginning of winter.

You go outside and breathe in
the smell of fall, winter, snow.

It smells awesome.

You can't do that down south.

And the winter sunsets here
are incredible.

I don't really like living here.

I'd rather be in the city,

where there are lots and lots
and lots of people

and I can do whatever I want.

There are lots of places
to go skateboarding.

There's nothing but sand here,
so I can't skateboard.

Not enough people, either.

No school or sport competitions.

There are facilities,
but no competitors.

I don't mind living here.

I've lived all over Quebec
and there's nothing…

I don't mind.

I'd like to be a cop.

Then I'd come back to work here,
because it pays well.

More so than down south.

That's it.

I want to stay here
as long as possible.

When I become a star…

I'll be proud to say
I grew up here.

Most of us have been here
for 6, 7, 13, 16 years.

We know each other too well.

I can't fall in love
with, say, Renaud.

I know him far too well.

- It must happen.
- Sure, it's possible.

But we're too close-knit.
We know each other inside out.

It makes for long-distance relationships.

It's hell.

Meaning what?

In my case,
I met someone in Grade 1,

but she left the next year.

Now I only see her
once a summer,

and sometimes, but rarely,
in the winter.

It's a drag.

Do you plan on living here
for more than six months?

Yes. At least.

Date of birth?

April 5, 1972.

1972, which makes you 32.

Are you bilingual?

Yes. Well, I can get by.

- Highest education level?
- Grade 11.

General Level?

Do you have a driver's license?

What class?

For heavy machinery
or… trucks?

I can operate a cube van.
That's it.

Do you enjoy working with the public?

It's not that I don't,
but I'm more accustomed to working…

on the other side.

I'm not used to
working with the public.

I wouldn't mind, but…

I've worked in warehouses.

Any disabilities, health problems
or allergies I should know about?

How would you define
your personality?



I mean, I see things through.

In summer, during fishing season,
it stinks to high heaven.

Does moose stink too?

It's cooler this time of year.
In summer…

Speaking of moose,
I see ears poking out over there.

It reeks!

The drains can wait…

The skating rink
also needs a little work.

We could start over there.

Right beside the Phoenix…

is our skating rink.

Pieces of rotting wood have to
be replaced with these precut ones.

We could do that this afternoon.

Provided it doesn't rain.

Where is everyone?

They're bringing fresh water
to the daycare.

Seems the kids are all sick.

Must be the water
churning through the pipes.

When the work started,
there was a boil-water advisory.

But there's been
no mention of it lately.

Kids are sometimes harder hit, too.

And when one gets sick,
they all do.

Especially at daycare.
It soon becomes an epidemic.

Do you have kids in daycare?

Vincent, whom you've met,
is my youngest.

He's in Grade 9,
so he's got three years left here.

- Then…
- He's leaving?

We'll see. I don't know.

I've been here almost 25 years.

I'm in no hurry to leave.

I came here at 18,
for a student job.

I've been here ever since.

Maybe I'll stay put, too.

Are you any good at carpentry?

I haven't done much.
I'm resourceful, but…

Actually, I've never done any.

I'm somewhat of a jack-of-all-trades.

That's highly valued here.



Plumbing and such?

Yes. Everything but electricity.

Someone else handles that?

Usually, it's for insurance reasons.

Only contractors are authorized.

I do it myself at home, of course.

My father was an electrician
all his working life.

I followed him around everywhere
as a kid.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

It'll all burn?

Just about.

How did you end up here?

I saw an ad in the paper
and applied for the job.

I interviewed for the position
and got it.

- Where did you live before?
- Lévis, near Quebec City.

- That's quite a trek!
- Yeah. Several hours' drive.

Is your family still there?

In Quebec City, yes.
Most of my family is there.

Some… I have a brother in Montreal.

My parents live in Quebec City.

- You don't get homesick?
- Sometimes.

Where are you from,
Sister Marie-Lorie?



Are there many nuns there?

A fair-sized community.

I'm Christian the Gorilla.

You live here in Radisson, Sister?

I've been here three years now.

- Three years in Radisson?
- Three years straight.

- You like it here?
- Very much.

- You'll be staying?
- Absolutely.

Me, too.

I still have a mission to accomplish.

And what's that?

Many things to accomplish.

I, too, have a mission.

- I plan to see it through.
- Me, too.

We'll undoubtedly meet again, Sister.

Yes. Go in peace.

Thank you, Sister.

I told her a story,
but you can't spill the beans.

Don't tell her.
You know her well?

She's one of my students.

- But not today?
- No.

I told her that
if you plant a quarter…

…and water it frequently,

money will grow.

I later saw her…

You mustn't tell her, though.

I don't know where
she got the money,

but she was digging a bunch
of holes next to the canteen.

- It was cute.
- She was digging more holes?

That's cute.

So why did you come here, anyway?

You never did tell me.

My mother died.

But it's OK now.

Things are going OK.

I'm meeting people.

- I'm wearing dandy costumes.
- Yeah.

Time heals all wounds.

I'm happy to be here.

Me, too.

Ow! That hurts!


Gimme my club!

Drifting States

with Christian LeBlanc
and the people of Radisson

Translation and subtitling:
CNST, Montreal

This film was restored by Éléphant,
Memory of Quebec Cinema, in November, 2019

It was achieved using
a 1/2-inch Betacam SP NTSC master