Les Passeurs


LES PASSEURS is available on DVD

(Contact us: nadja@ca.inter.net)



LES PASSEURS was written & directed by Hejer Charf. 




LES PASSEURS is a fictional story woven from true experiences drawn from everyday life. Fiction mellowed through reality. An urban tale.

Once upon a time in Montreal … Ulysse, Maya, Adam, Barbara and Thomas… these are the fictional characters of the film. They are les passeurs… the tellers of tales.

Les passeurs of varied stories and various points of view. Differences.

Les passeurs are seated in a Hindu temple. They observe and listen to a young girl of Indian heritage and a young man of Laotian origins. They talk of their sense of belonging to the country when the identity is cosmopolitan. «I am a Québécois but my physical appearance betrays me in a way» says the young man.

Les passeurs walk along Saint-Laurent Boulevard. Their road becomes the faces and the bodies they pass, the diversity that they come across: a black-skinned Montagnais Innu, a veiled woman, a pale-skinned young Cree, a Hassidic couple, a rapper, an older woman, a young girl, a child…

The gait of les passeurs takes on the rhythm of every language: Portuguese, Japanese, Persian, French, Spanish, English… Arabic and Hebrew mixed together.

Les passeurs find themselves in a forest. They observe and listen to a young Native and a young Québécois. The reconciliation of origins for a possible new human identity. «Innu means human» says the young Montagnais.

Les passeurs continue their way along St Laurent Boulevard. Their lives are transformed through each contact. And the stranger becomes close and familiar.

Les passeurs is the story of boundaries and how they brake loose. Fiction and reality. Ourselves and the others.
Once upon a time Montreal… moving and diverse.


Director's Statement

Canada, Quebec, Montreal, Saint-Laurent Boulevard all have this in common: their diversity.

The urge to communicate and the poetic necessity push me to the unusual temptation, while walking on the street, to approach two individuals, chosen at random and ask them: « What do you know about one another?»

Ulysse, Maya, Adam, Barbara and Thomas, the fictional characters of the film (the actors), were born in Montreal. They are recognizable as people from here. The sameness of their belonging gets shaken up when they open up to the stranger. Their walk leads them towards the others. And these others take on a new appearance. The appearance of the familiar.

« Don’t forget to question yourself… that’s your life… the guy you see in the film, he’s not a hero, he’s you, an ordinary guy, an every-day sort of man.» said the famous Quebec movie director Gilles Groulx.

For Gilles Groulx the cinema is a precise equation: an individual, a reality and a resolutely poetic tone.

The fictional walk that the «passeurs» take is strewn with real people who talk in their own words, in their own way.

Clémence Brodeur follows Ulysse. She talks to him and then tells her own story. Clémence Brodeur is really the seventh daughter in a family of seven girls. And the people around her do think that she has strange and magical gifts.

The film’s fictional story is constructed and developed using real events. The fictional element dominates the real. It illuminates it. It makes it exist. It puts it on view.

« I don’t feel like I see a difference between life and my creation. » said Jean-Luc Godard.

«Les passeurs» make room for the differences.

«Les passeurs» are working towards a third way: that of simple dialogue. The third way is that of real, mixed-up and supported by fiction.

The actors walk up and down along St-Laurent Boulevard. It’s a «road movie » where the whole extent of the trajectory is limited to a few blocks between Milton Street and Marie-Anne. Still it’s a long road. This road is made up of these faces and these shapes that they come across and all these differences that they meet. The actors know that: «Somewhere along the road someone will hand me the rare pearl» said Jack Kerouac.

«Movie moulded from reality, open to abstraction» said Pier Paolo Pasolini.


I will speak to you
of her hair
Then I will tell you
about her face…

One Thousand and One Night



LES PASSEURS was shot in Montreal and completed in 2003.
Length: 80mn.



Assistant on the film:  NADINE LTAIF

Private investors on the film:



This film was produced thanks to the Aid for Independent Cinema (Canada) ACIC National Film Board of Canada (MONIQUE LÉTOURNEAU).


Press Review

Instructors interested in demonstrating the diversity of contemporary Quebec society have only to obtain Les Passeurs (2003). Born in Tunisia, Charf has lived in many places, settling finally in Canada. There she has directed several documentaries and founded the film and theatrical compagny Nadja Productions,  of which she is currently the President. She travels between Vancouver and Montreal, finding this commuting indispensable for a full appreciation of the many differences existing in Canada. Charf contends that at every street corner these differences are manifested, and she has decided to show them on film, in the manner of Godard, Pasolini, and Groulx (her models). Charf mixes fiction and reality, literature and poetry. She believes that cinema is an encyclopedic art, mixing music, painting, books and thoughts, and describes Les Passeurs as being « entre la fiction et la réalité ». The work depicts the complexities of culture shok and of the search for Quebec identity among the many options now open to the citizens of that province. Charf presents the beauty of Quebec’s multi-ethnicity, while also showing us through poetry, music, and conversations about the vicissitudes of life the attitudes of people as disparate as possible (Egyptian, Innu, Jewish, Haitian, etc.), yet having in common their Canadian citizenship and the French language, the tool of their daily existence. Not overlooked are the difficulties of the Québécois « pure laine » in assessing their own culture, and in accepting the new immigrant population. Also touched on is the isolation felt by Quebec’s francophone majority. Background motifs underline this huge diversity : as the characters walk down the street, we note in the store windows signs in Italian, in Portuguese, and so forth.

Les Passeurs expresses all issues of alienation, integration, and identity through the fictional characters Ulysse, Adam, Barbara, and Thomas who stroll along the Boulevard St-Laurent, attending to the stories of the real people they meet. These passersby, and also the main characters, state their sense of belonging to the city, while also adhering to their underlying ethnicity : its culture, community, belief system, family, and language. The « passeurs » arrive at dialogue and at a reconciliation of their origins with the French-speaking urban context in which they find themselves. And the persons in the film seem to come to a more perfect understanding of each other’s situation.

The difficulty of the artist in financing his/her work and in being accepte dis also evoked. And added to all of this, the film is a virtual hymn to story-telling. Charf has interwoven scenes from Le Chat dans le sac, Gilles Groulx’s seminal film on Quebec’s Quiet Revolution. She employs a « cinema direct » style.

The « two solitudes » of Canada have multiplied as the face of Montreal (and all of Canada) has become multicultural and diversified. It has been suggested that « les Passeurs  points to a future where Montreal’s many cultures create a new collective identity. With quotes from (Le Petit Prince), Jack Kerouak, Omar Khayyam, Arthur Rimbaud, Rainer Maria Rilke, and the Koran, this road movie of less than a dozen blocks embraces all the world (Moving images)

For Charf, it is in « passing » from one country to another, from one culture to another, from one religion to another, from reality to fiction and fiction to reality, that one is most complete. Borders are anathema to her. It is little wonder then that the film earned the Premio Sigillo della Pace of the city of Florence in 2003, an honor Charf shared ex-aequo with Yamina Benguigui (Algeria) for her film Inch’Allah Dimanche – another film portraying the alienation of the immigrant in a forein land. In short, Les Passeurs calls for interaction and understanting, as contemporary mental blocks give way to pluralistic and harmonious intercultural society.

« C’est beau à mort », says Geneviève Bujold. And I agree. 
Janis L. Pallister (FRENCH REVIEW, april 2006) Bowling Green State University, OHIO, USA

Fictional characters Ulysse, Maya, Adam, Barbara and Thomas pace Montreal's Boulevard St. Laurent, attuned to the stories of the real people they meet. A Haitian Innu, a punk rocker, a pale-skinned Cree, a Laotian theology student, a Hassidic couple, an elderly matron from the townships who was her family's seventh-born…with candour, passersby express a sense of belonging to the city, their culture, community, family and language. The facets of their identity complement one another as often as clash. On one level a film about being Québécois, at another, it is a meditation on storytelling, on the many worlds we visit through poetry, song and personal narrative. As the young wanderers absorb the rhythm of every overheard language, they begin to understand more closely how each person cobbles together identity.

Interweaving scenes from Le chat dans le sac, Gilles Groulx's seminal film on Québec's Quiet Revolution, filmmaker Hejer Charf both employs a "Cinéma direct" style and reconsiders the isolation felt by Québec's Francophone majority. The two solitudes may have multiplied as the face of Montreal has diversified, but Les passeurs points to a future where Montreal's many cultures create a new collective identity. With quotes from Jack Kerouac, Omar Khayyam, the Koran, Arthur Rimbaud and Rainer Maria Rilke, this road movie of less than a dozen blocks embraces all the world.  Movingimages

Hejer Charf was offered il Sigillo della pace (the seal of peace) which represents a sixteenth century Florentine medallion showing a dove. This prize was created within the framework of the “Women's Project” of the public education office of Florence in collaboration with the International Summit of Women's Cinema. “Les Passeurs” records various interchanges of a group of people from different backgrounds confronting a cosmopolitan community.

Article in IL MANIFESTO, ITALY, OCTOBRE 14, 2003

Interviews in English :

CKUT 90.3 FM
WITH David J. Cox April 4, 2005