Alexis Tremblay, Habitant – The Story of a Farmer in Quebec
(Terre de nos aïeux)
Format: 16mm Colour
Runtime: 37 min
National Film Board of Canada
One of the first National Film Board projects to be produced, directed, written and shot by women, Alexis Tremblay, Habitant – The Story of a Farmer in Quebec is an idyllic portrait of the life of a Quebec farmer and his family who live in Charlevoix county alongside the St. Lawrence River. The Tremblays follow the traditions of their ancestors who settled the region three hundred years earlier; the Catholic Church plays a big part in their existence and in the rituals of the seasons (spring planting, fall harvest, winter chores, etc.), all of which form part of a continuous and seemingly timeless cycle.
For years (until it was withdrawn from circulation in 1960), this was one of the NFB’s most popular films. If one can now easily condemn its ideologically reassuring image of happy peasants secure in the bosom of their faith, it is also necessary to consider its context. It reflects precisely an image propounded at the time by Quebec society itself, most significantly by the Church. But beyond this, it is a striking example of a continuing current in Canadian documentary: the romantic idyll of life on the land, where the innocence and peace of childhood remain undisturbed as humanity lives in harmonious relation with nature. Stylistically, it shares much with the Flaherty approach and nothing with the then-dominant Griersonian social purpose documentary, and might be better related to Budge Crawley’s Canadian Landscape (1941), Portage (1942) and Four Seasons (1944).
In 1947, against the filmmaker’s wishes, the NFB prepared a three-part version of the film titled Spring on a Quebec Farm, Summer on a Quebec Farm and Winter on a Quebec Farm.