December 7, 2012. 9:48 am • Section: Pop Tart
Montreal filmmaker Paul Émile d’Entremont
Montreal filmmaker Paul Émile d’Entremont was directing another movie in Jordan some years ago when he came up with the idea to make his brand-new, award-winning documentary film Last Chance, which chronicles the struggles of five queer refugees from around the world – from some of the most rabidly anti-gay countries on the planet – seeking asylum in Canada.
“I felt compelled to make this movie because I am a gay man and was wondering what my next documentary should be and that would be important to me,” says d’Entremont. “My sexuality and being gay define everything that I am, so while making this other film in Jordan, my DoP [director of photography] asked our driver if there were any gay people in Jordan and the cab driver replied, ‘No, there aren’t any.’ That reply was a trigger. I thought it would be interesting to make a film about gay Arabs. So I started hanging out with HELEM [in Montreal] and that led me to making this movie about gay refugees.”
Last Chance follows the heartrending journeys of Carlos, Jennifer (a transgender woman who was institutionalized by her own family), Zaki (who was thrown into an Egyptian jail), Alvaro and, lastly, Trudi, a lesbian from Jamaica who was “correctively” raped at gunpoint.
The doc took a decade to make, including three years of actually filming
“I wanted to follow individuals from their countries of origin as they flee to Canada,” d’Entremont says. “That had never been done before.”
D’Entremont continues, “Trudi was the last story. I had been working with Jamaican activists in Toronto for two years. It wasn’t that there weren’t any stories – there was a list a mile long – but to identify someone who would participate in the doc and had a good chance of getting a visa, how do we do that? Trudi’s story was filmed the last year of this film.”
On a personal note, I think Last Chance is a poignant film. The film graphically portrays the issue of minority rights and exposes for the first time the ordeal that asylum seekers must go through, from their countries of origin to their arrival in Canada. It features such talking heads as renowned Montreal immigration and refugee lawyer Noel St. Pierre (whom I helped with a couple of LGBT asylum cases in the late 1990s), and the film’s closing scene brought me to tears.
“We struggled with the last scene, about whether it would send the right message,” d’Entremont says.
As for Canada’s refugee system, what is d’Entremont’s prognosis? Is Canada still the planet’s great big hope, or are we closing our borders?
“I’m no expert but I certainly have consulted a lot of experts and I agree with what I hear, that we have a one of the best systems in the world for refugee protection,” says d’Entremont, pointing out there are flaws in the system. “It is also under tremendous pressure and threat. We really don’t’ know how the [new reforms] voted on in June will pan out. They have not really taken effect. So the jury is still out.”
Last Chance will be available for viewing for free online December 7-8-9 atnfb.ca/lastchance.
Subsequently the film will be available for download-to-own, for $14.95 in high definition and $9.95 in standard definition, and as a video-on-demand rental for $2.95