Just Watch Me:
Trudeau and the '70s Generation
CBC, Feb. 17, 8 p.m.
Though his policies were beyond the comprehension of the average kid, Pierre Elliot Trudeau was an easy politician for a youngster to get his or her head around. Trudeau drove sports cars, gave reporters the finger and once even called in the army. His wife, meanwhile, partied with The Rolling Stones. In other words, Pierre was way cool. But Trudeau managed to permeate the consciousness of young people more deeply. And Just Watch Me: Trudeau and the '70s Generation examines the profound and lasting impact Canada's 15th prime minister had on those too young to vote for him. "I am the product of a social experiment -- an experiment that was pushed for and initiated by Pierre Trudeau to make the country bilingual," 32-year-old westerner Doug Garson says at the beginning of the documentary, which airs on Feb. 17 on the CBC. "I was going to be that generation. The generation of English people living on the prairies who could speak French."
Just Watch Me is a clever, irreverent contribution to the constitutional debate. It won this year's Genie Award for best feature-length documentary and is sure to pick up more accolades. Director Catherine Annau handpicked eight "Trudeau Kids" (people born in the 1960s) representing different regions, genders and ethnic backgrounds. She and cinematographer Ronald Plante travelled the country meeting their subjects and capturing the effect the charismatic prime minister and his vision of a completely bilingual Canada has on their lives today.
Just Watch Me is the first Canadian documentary to examine Canada's language issue from a thirtysomething, Gen-X perspective. Annau, 34, who dreamt up the project shortly after the 1995 Quebec referendum, felt her generation's voice was being ignored. "In Canada, you're conditioned to believe that you don't get to tell your story until you're 40," the Toronto-born filmmaker told Maclean's in an interview. "I was tired of watching men in suits discussing the future of Canada as if it was an abstract political science experiment."
The recollections she drew from her subjects are passionate, funny, thoughtful and often poignant. Quebec City's Sylvain Marois, a separatist, mournfully recalls how his marriage to an anglophone almost ended because of the tensions created by the 1995 referendum. John Duffy, who grew up in Toronto and went on to become a Bay Street consultant, remembers thinking Montrealers "were all sitting around having absinthe and fantastic sex all day and you're stuck here in Toronto." True to Trudeau's vision, these testimonials are presented in both French and English. Just Watch Me proves that while his notion of a bilingual country may not have manifested itself, it still resonates for some Canadians.