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Jacques Godbout

Jacques Godbout

Jacques Godbout is one of the most important Quebecois artists and intellectuals who ever worked at the National Film Board of Canada. A writer, journalist and filmmaker, Godbout was born in Montreal on November 27, 1933, and authored several influential essays during Quebec’s Quiet Revolution. He has written 34 books to date, including poetry books, novels and children’s books. Godbout also co-founded Liberté (1959), the Mouvement laïque de la langue française (1962) and the Union des écrivains Québécois (1977).

In a filmmaking career spanning 55 years, Godbout made more than 30 films at the NFB, where he started as a producer and screenwriter in 1958. He debuted as a director in 1961, and among his notable early works are Strangers for the Day (1962, co-directed with Georges Dufaux), which depicts European immigrants arriving in Halifax, and People Might Laugh at Us (1964, co-directed with Françoise Bujold), a lovely film that alternates static and moving shots of Mi’kmaq children making birds and dolls using brightly coloured paper, which they hang in trees. From 1966 to 1974, Godbout directed four feature-length fiction films: Yul 871 (1966), Kid Sentiment (1968), Ixe 13 (1971) and La Gammik (1974). He continued to make films with the NFB until 2003, and one of his most intriguing works is the feature-length documentary Alias Will James (1988), which tells the incredible story of Ernest Dufault, a.k.a., Will James, a French-Canadian man who became a mythical American cowboy, and later took up the pen and became a Hollywood legend.

On May 12, 2016, Godbout was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, a prestigious honour and only one of his many awards and accolades, which include Chevalier of the Ordre national du Québec in 1998, a Governor General’s Award in 1967, the France-Quebec Literary Prize in 1962, and three honorary doctorates, from the University of Ottawa (2022), McGill University (2003) and UQAM (2009).