A sweet romantic comedy that doubles as a hitchhiker’s guide to Canada, Dominic Desjardins’ Le Divan du Monde —­­ selected as the opening night presentation of this year’s Cinefranco festival (Mar. 26 - April 3) — is also a rarity.

 

It’s a Canadian Francophone film produced outside of Quebec.

 

“I think that there have only been one or two other ones,” says Desjardins, a self-described ‘Franco-Ontarian’ with a background in television who found himself in a unique position to make his first feature.

 

“I was invited to take part in a musical tour celebrating the 400th anniversary of Quebec City,” explains the filmmaker. “They were looking to honour francophones beyond Quebec. My project was to film different cities along the way, but it was vague. So I thought:, ‘We have [Juno-award-winning musician] Antoine Gratton, we’re on the road — why don’t we make a movie?’

 

“I asked them if they would help with transport and food for the crew, and we pulled it off on a shoestring.”


There are moments when Le Divan du Monde betrays its small budget, but the sense of intimacy — and clear absence of commercial-minded meddling in the story — proves rather winning.


“I find it exciting and liberating to make movies in a guerilla sort of way,” says Desjardins.


“You don’t have to meet deadlines or answer to anybody. I wrote a script and didn’t have to wait five years for it to get made.”


But the real key, he says, was finding the right pair of actors for the leads. While Gratton is appealing in his feature debut, the film belongs to co-star Melanie Leblanc, whose character’s attempt to thumb her way from B.C. to Prince Edward Island gives the story its coast-to-coast arc.


“Melanie is originally from Moncton,” says Desjardins. “In Quebec, we rarely hear those sorts of local accents, so when we were shooting Montreal, everybody there loved listening to her.”



Correction - March 24, 2010, 5:10 p.m. EST: A previous version of this story incorrect spelled the film's name. It is Le Divan du Monde, not La Divan as previously reported. It has since been corrected.