Participate to the online award ceremony on March 18, 2021.
Sophie Bissonnette is one of the leading women in Quebec’s independent documentary filmmaking industry. Her first feature film documented the role of women in a lengthy miners’ strike in Sudbury. In her ensuing works, she has continued her commitment to giving a voice to women, particularly those of working-class backgrounds.
Sophie Bissonnette has worked closely with community organizations, directing participatory videos involving immigrant women and women in vulnerable situations through life-story workshops. She has also directed educational pieces in conjunction with Relais-femmes and produced prevention and awareness videos regarding female circumcision.
All of her films have been widely distributed in theatres in Montreal and regionally, at international festivals, on TV and the web. She has received a number of awards for her documentaries, including the prestigious UNICEF Award for Sexy Inc. Our Children under Influence, one of the NFB’s most-viewed films. Her films stimulate public debate on major societal issues and social change.
Sophie Bissonnette has given a voice to women who are frequently invisible or ignored by the mainstream media: working-class women, housewives, immigrant women, girls and women who are victims of violence and women on social assistance. She has demonstrated vision by focusing on key societal issues and thus creating a forum for social debate around highly topical subjects such as poverty, labour practices, immigration, violence towards women, assistance during pregnancy, sexualization in the media or women and aging. Celebrating women’s accomplishments and struggles, her films fall within a broader determination to bring about social change.
Sophie Bissonnette has also demonstrated innovation in her filmmaking style. Each of her documentaries takes a unique form that is tailored to the subject and based on in-depth research, incorporating original music, animated sequences, short dramatic scenes and humour! Through her life-story workshops for women aged 50 and over, delivered in partnership with community organizations such as YWCA Montreal, she has developed an original approach to collective creation by video that has received unanimous praise.
A committed women’s rights activist since her university days, notably as a member of the committee for free abortion on demand, Sophie Bissonnette has remained highly engaged in the feminist sphere, receiving regular invitations to speak and present her films. With each project, she goes far beyond simply producing the film. She demonstrates a huge capacity for listening and openness in discussions, always taking care to give everyone equitable time and space and fostering a climate conducive to dialogue.
Sophie Bissonnette is also deeply committed to independent Quebec film as a proponent of art house films and films by women. She has been actively involved on the boards of the Association des Réalisateurs et Réalisatrices du Québec and the not-for-profit distribution company Cinéma Libre. She is the co-founder of and active participant in the Lea Roback Foundation, which provides scholarships to women from disadvantaged communities, and the Montréal International Documentary Festival, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. She continues to work on behalf of the association Réalisatrices équitables, which recently helped achieve gender parity in public film funding in Quebec and Canada.
From the outset of her career, Sophie Bissonnette has chosen not only to denounce injustice, but also to advocate for social change by showcasing women who inspire through their actions and their character. Whether it’s Lea Roback and Madeleine Parent, the feminist pioneers she introduced in her documentaries, who continue to inspire younger generations today, the Sudbury housewives who discovered their power to mobilize against one company’s intransigence during a strike, or Mozambique’s marching women, who denounced the violence to which they had been subjected by participating in the World March of Women, she continues to inspire future generations to take action for justice by disseminating and preserving these stories. The work of the documentary director is always followed by a lengthy distribution process. The discussions led by Sophie following film screenings are all opportunities to motivate people to act in their own lives and participate in social change.
On countless occasions, Sophie Bissonnette has seen how a good documentary can be a harbinger for change. Those involved in her documentaries have also frequently told her how the documentary experience itself was a positive factor in their lives. Her life-story workshops are places of sharing and formidable instruments for women’s awareness of their power, empowering them to overcome obstacles and driving them onward and upward.