CBC’s Absolutely Quebec series apparently isn’t just a summer thing. As the documentaries that premiered this summer get a second airing on weekends while the broadcaster prepares a new local current affairs show set to begin next month, a new half-hour documentary has been added, and it’s airing tonight.
Looming Large is described by the CBC as “a look at innovations in Quebec textiles at the crossroads of business, art and technology” and a “unique documentary about the future of textile in Quebec.” You can see a 30-second promo for the show here.
It’s hosted by Jeanette Kelly, who hosts CBC Radio’s 5 à 6 on Saturdays and was also host of An Evening with Janina Fialkowska, the first of this year’s Absolutely Quebec specials. It’s directed by Carrie Haber, who produces the Absolutely Quebec series and told me this week she’s starting work on discovering next year’s batch.
The Looming Large documentary airs Thursday at 6:30pm, right after the evening news, on CBC Montreal. It repeats Sunday at 11:30pm
When I chatted with Absolutely Quebec series producer Carrie Haber about her job, it was in the context of a story about the airing of the Parc Avenue Tonight special. But in discussing the series, it was clear there was another episode she seemed more excited about: Legends of Magdalen, a documentary about the hundreds of unexplored 19th-century shipwrecks near the Magdalen Islands.
That episode, the season finale for Absolutely Quebec, airs at 7pm on Saturday (and again at 3am Sunday) on CBC Montreal.
“It’s just spellbinding. It’s just a beautiful work about shipwrecks in the Magdalen Islands,” Haber told me.
She said the documentary came to her about a year ago. The film crew has been up to the islands three separate times to shoot, including going scuba diving. “They found a wreck that hadn’t been found before, dove down and discovered what was there. It’s a lovely reflection of what the Magdalen Islands is.”
This is the second year that Haber has been producing the Absolutely Quebec series for CBC Montreal. The Saturday evening one-hour specials, which run during the summer when there’s no hockey, are usually regional documentaries, but can include other types of programming as well, like Parc Avenue Tonight or the Short Stop series of short films. Haber’s involvement varies by the project, but usually involves dealing with the film’s producer to help them improve the story and then cut the resulting film down to 40 minutes for broadcast.
“My heart is in documentary after spending eight years at the NFB,” Haber said, while adding that she would like to see more drama and comedy on television that reflects the region. “Quebec has this opportunity of this multi-lingual multicultural place that it is, I think that’s great fodder for stories, and I don’t see that reflected.”
(You can read more about Haber’s views in the story I wrote for The Gazette.)
You might recall a few months ago I mentioned that CBC was going to record and air a special live-audience version of Dimitrios Koussioulas’s Mile End talk show Parc Avenue Tonight.
The show was recorded in front of a live audience on May 15 at Cabaret du Mile End. I was invited to witness the setup, and took a bunch of pictures. I talk a bit about the show for this story in Saturday’s Gazette, which discusses the state of local non-news television in English Montreal.
CBC Montreal presented Parc Avenue Tonight Live Saturday at 7pm as part of its Absolutely Quebec series of regional specials. You can watch it online if you missed it.
When Dimitrios Koussioulas, whose name I will one day learn how to write without having to copy and paste it, started his Mile End online talk show Parc Avenue Tonight, I thought to myself: This looks dirt cheap, but promising. This should be on actual TV.
Well, despite what can be said about our Toronto-controlled television networks that seem to have all but abandoned local programming, Koussioulas is being given his chance to be on Montreal television. In fact, he’s getting two, on two different stations.
A week after City announced that Koussioulas would be one of three hosts of a new weekly magazine show on local culture and lifestyle, CBC announced on Friday that it will be taping a special episode of his Parc Avenue Tonight show in front of a live audience and airing it this summer as part of its Absolutely Quebec regional series.
Absolutely Quebec is a summer series of (usually) one-hour specials that air Saturdays at 7pm during the summer (during hockey’s off-season). It is, for now at least, the only regional programming that airs on CBC television outside of the local newscasts. You can get an idea of what it’s like from last year’s shows.
Parc Avenue Tonight is an interview show in which Koussioulas speaks with fellow Mile Enders. Aside from its glorification of smoking, its canned audience applause and its strange love of bananas, it’s worth watching when it has a good guest. The episode above is an interview with Marianne Ackerman, an author, freelance writer and the person behind the Rover arts website. It showcases the solid (though modest) production values and Koussioulas’s warm and inviting personality.
The show’s live taping will happen May 15 at the Cabaret du Mile End (naturally), and will air on CBMT TV two months later, on July 13th. Ticket information and a copy of the press release are below:
For those (like me) who complain that there isn’t much local programming in English in Quebec outside of news broadcasts, a regional documentary and short film series is something to look forward to. This summer, CBC television presents Absolutely Quebec, a series of five one-hour documentaries and an hour of short films that reflect the anglophone community in Quebec.
The first episode, Hockey Migrations, aired last Saturday. It tells the story of a hockey tournament in Tasiujaq, an Inuit community near Ungava Bay. But it’s actually an inightful look into the culture of the region, how native communities are struggling with changes to their traditional way of life, and how hockey is a way to give kids something to do and keep them out of trouble. Its director, Tony Girardin, was interviewed on CBC Radio’s All in a Weekend on Saturday morning, and explains that the footage was actually shot seven years ago, but only edited into a documentary recently. (One of the elders interviewed in the documentary has since died.)
You can watch Hockey Migrations on CBC’s website.
“In Quebec, we have an incredibly rich history of storytelling and filmmaking,” Shelagh Kinch, the new Managing Director CBC Quebec, is quoted as saying in the press release. “CBC is proud to produce a series that highlights some of our province’s emerging filmmakers and also allows new audiences to enjoy these local stories.”
The rest of the series, which runs Saturdays at 7pm on CBMT (except Aug. 11, when CBC airs Rogers Cup tennis coverage), is as follows:
Sadly, Videotron’s on-screen listings list 7pm Saturday as being The Nature of Things, but tune in anyway. It’s one of the few chances you’ll have to watch that independently-produced local programming you complain never sees the light of day on local television.
Some of these episodes might end up being aired nationally as well, as part of the Absolutely Canadian series. But which of those will get national exposure (on CBC television, CBC News Network or the Documentary channel) and when that will be hasn’t been decided yet.