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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Understanding The Donkey

Like children all over North America, pint-size Quebecers have been flocking to theatres recently to see the animated film Shrek the Third, or Shrek le Troisieme as it is known here. The only problem is they are leaving confused about what exactly that donkey was saying.

"The donkey is the main character we don't understand here in Quebec," explained Tristan Harvey, a Montreal actor who makes his living dubbing movies into French. "When you go out with your child and watch the movie, the children and the adults will say, 'I just don't get it. He speaks another language.' He's using Parisian slang that we just don't get."

Because the French-language version of the movie now on Quebec screens was dubbed in France, Quebecers have trouble following the dialogue. It is one example among many that led politicians in Quebec City last week to call for a law obliging the major Hollywood studios to dub their movies in Quebec, using Quebec actors. In an interesting twist on Quebec's age-old language debate, the fight is not against English but against the often incomprehensible dialect spoken in mother France.
The donkey in the French-language version of Shrek the Third uses Parisian slang, causing Quebec audiences to miss a lot of the dialogue.View Larger Image View Larger Image
The donkey in the French-language version of Shrek the Third uses Parisian slang, causing Quebec audiences to miss a lot of the dialogue.

The fight was taken up last week by Mario Dumont, whose Action democratique du Quebec leapt from nowhere to official opposition in the last election thanks in part to its message that the Quebec identity is under threat. During the election campaign, Mr. Dumont was preoccupied by perceived threats from religious groups seeking accommodation of their customs; now it is the Hollywood studios and the Parisian actors they hire to dub their films. His party tabled a bill last Wednesday that would force studios to have their films dubbed in Quebec before they can be released in the province. (Existing law requires that a French-language version be available but does not dictate where the dubbing is to be done.)

Mr. Dumont told reporters about taking his baffled children to see Shrek le Troisieme. "You have very Parisian expressions that are typical to Paris or France [and that] children of Quebec have never heard of, cannot understand. So this is the whole story of cultural diversity," he said.

It is also a story of a lucrative industry that actors fear could be lost if the major Hollywood studios abandon their commitment to dubbing in Quebec.

Quebec's Union des artistes, which represents film, stage and television actors, says the dubbing industry was worth $25-million last year, providing work for 800 people. Of that number, 200 are actors, most of whom work in relative anonymity, providing the French voices of Hollywood stars.

For example, Gilbert Lachance would not get recognized on the streets of Montreal, but he provides the voices of stars including Johnny Depp, Matt Damon, Tom Cruise and Chris Rock. Camille Cyr-Desmarais does not have bombsell looks, but in the Quebec versions of films she becomes Scarlett Johansson, Cameron Diaz and Salma Hayek.

The union annually rates the Hollywood studios on their performances in dubbing in Quebec, awarding prizes to the best and worst. The lemon prize for worst performance last year was shared by Fox and Paramount, which dubbed 52% and 42% of their films in Quebec, respectively. The top prize went to Warner, which dubbed all its films in Quebec. Overall, 73% of major releases were dubbed in Quebec, down from 78% the year before.
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Posted by Ajay :: 4:45 PM :: 0 comments

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