The Vinland Club: Tribute to my mentor Benoit Bellon

1949. Young Emile is sent by his mother to a religious college. You barely have the means, and Emil shows little interest in going. There, however, he meets Brother Jean, whose superiors (played in particular by Remy Girard and François Papineau) are concerned, but who are adored by his students. In addition to teaching, he shares his research and passion for the arrival of the Vikings in North America and the discovery of a mythical place, cited in many stories: Vinland. “About 1960, we discovered a Viking site at L’Anse aux Meadows. According to several hypotheses, they may have entered the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and descended on the coast of Newfoundland … But we have not found the remains of Vinland”, says Benoit Bellon (What it takes to liveAnd Foolish).

We met the manager.

The Vinland Club, by Benoit Bilon Photo: Opal Films

how story Vinland Club?

Benoit Bellon: It was first imagined by Norman Bergeron, a professor of biology in Quebec who made films before beginning his career as a scientist. He was joined by screenwriter Marc Ropitel (A summer without a point or a sure hit), then by me. It has been really a pleasure working with these two, and they are absolutely respectable guys!

And what I also liked were these beautiful characters, especially that of Brother Jean, the teacher who changes the lives of young people and inspires them.

For myself, I experienced it in high school 5, with Pierre Menard, the French teacher who later made me want to make films. He was a little brother who taught at St Paul’s College in Varennes, and he gave us a play by Michel Tremblay that I managed to pull off. It was a revelation! I’ve had the urge to work on scripts with the actors! It took me a long time; Then I went to college in the sciences, but he really was the driver behind it all.

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In a field, three men dressed as priests (including Sebastian Ricard and Remy Girard) look at the camera.
The Vinland Club, by Benoit Bilon Photo: Opal Films

In the credits, your entire team pays tribute to an unforgettable teacher. But he’s also a character who really liked cinema. Which one is your favourite?

BP: Oh, Robin Williams in Lost Poets Society That’s for sure! It really is a historical movie. I saw a few of them again during the script, it’s a big topic for world cinema.

We all had a great teacher. Everyone has someone to run them along their way!

A man (Sebastian Ricard) dressed as a priest on the beach.
The Vinland Club, by Benoit Bilon Photo: Opal Films

Why did you think Sebastian Ricard would play Brother Jean?

BP: I think he’s a huge actor! I am very impressed. And I was looking for someone who could embody this brother by being an inspiration, while keeping a certain distance. He’s not the teacher shumi-sumi“,” text “:” chummy-chummy “}}”> shumi-sumi [sociable]! I didn’t want it to look like Club Med GO!

I think Sebastian embodies this: he’s very young and at the same time I find him a little uncomfortable. It feels very personal, but I find that there is something unresolved inside of it.

And it was important to feel this: Brother Jean should worry about his youth, because they were not given the opportunity to pursue their dreams and potential to the end.

In a classroom, one student stares at a movie projector while the others watch what the projector is displaying.
The Vinland Club, by Benoit Bilon Photo: Opal Films

There is a touching moment: when Emil discovers the cinema while observing the projector. Do you remember a moment that was a catalyst for you?

BP: Yes sure!

I discovered that it is possible to make cinema see the state of things, by Wim Wenders, a film about a film crew in Portugal waiting for funding.

Seeing this team, the movie within the movie, the deconstruction, suddenly made cinema seem to me a possibility. She understood what it means to make a film, and above all, cinema can be a reflection of society and itself. It’s amazing, but it’s really a movie that opened the door for me. My high school 5th grade teacher really opened my eyes to working on script and acting, but this movie made me understand that I can also go and learn cinema!

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Four priests (Guy Thofet, Rémy Girard, Sebastien Ricard and François Papineau) standing in front of a cross.
The Vinland Club, by Benoit Bilon Photo: Opal Films

Vinland Club It happened in 1949. But it strongly invokes the right to education for all and the power of science, two pillars that have already faltered over the past year…

BP: Yes, this worries me a lot. I understand, of course, that we had to head towards distance education, but we’re starting to hear some saying it’s workable, eventually; they cost less; That he can last…there, I’m faster in stretchers!

The experience of students facing a teacher who conveys something to them by looking them in the eye, considering their interests, or their lack of interest, was particularly better off trying to bring them back… We can’t get it on Zoom.

And then, of course, the denial of science, Trump, the conspirators… Over the past year, it has deeply worried and depressed me. I tell myself, in these questions, that the movie is about things we will always talk about.

Vinland Club, in theaters August 6, trailer (Source: YouTube).

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