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Lévesque lives again
by: Oct 1, 2007 Print

The turbulent times of one of Quebec's most popular politicians will be brought to life, again, in René Lévesque II, a miniseries now shooting in Montreal and Quebec City for CBC/Radio-Canada.

"When we made the first one, we knew there was going to be another," says Claudio Luca, the producer of both Lévesque miniseries. "This man had a huge impression on everyone in Quebec, and we needed to tell his story from beginning to end."

The $6.5-million, four-hour show picks up where the first René Lévesque mini, which aired in 2005, left off, with Lévesque, against all predictions, leading the separatist Parti Québécois to power in 1976, raising the specter of Quebec seceding from the rest of Canada.

This miniseries will follow the bitter politics of the period, including the intense campaign for sovereignty in the 1980 referendum, the enhancement of the province's language laws with Bill 101, and the repatriation of the Canadian Constitution by Trudeau in the '80s - a deal that would ultimately be made without Quebec's stamp of approval.

Emmanuel Bilodeau, who received accolades for his interpretation of Lévesque in the first mini, reprises his role, as does Pierre Gendron as Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Newcomers include Germain Houde as Jacques Parizeau and Dominique Pétin as Lise Payette.

Despite what many perceive as sagging fortunes for Quebec's sovereignty movement - the PQ fell to third place in this year's provincial election, while the Bloc Québécois lost a seat in the Sept. 17 federal byelections - the reputation of Lévesque himself, the man many consider the father of the movement, remains epic. Why has he remained so resilient in the minds of so many Quebecers?

"He was human," argues Luca. "He was always very close to the people. He believed hugely in democracy. And he tried many ambitious things while he was in office."

RLII is again being shot in both French and English, for Radio-Canada and CBC, respectively. Luca concedes that when the original aired in 2005, the French version got better-than-average ratings in Quebec, while the English version lagged. Luca blames this on poor publicity by the CBC: "There was no advertising; no one even knew it was on. I didn't even know it was airing, and I produced it."

But Luca says the latest miniseries will prove illuminating for viewers from coast to coast. "Lévesque was a visionary," he insists. "What he was arguing for was more control for Quebec and less interference from a central government. Today, that is what Alberta, B.C., Newfoundland - that's what everyone is asking for. They want the same thing he wanted. I think people will be able to relate."

RLII wraps on Oct. 31, and will air in four one-hour parts on SRC and two two-hour segments on CBC in the spring.

It is produced by Luca and Emanuelle Pré-Daigle of Ciné Télé Action 4 (Il Duce Canadese, The Boys of St. Vincent), who co-developed the miniseries with the CBC and SRC. The screenplay was penned by Geneviève Lefebvre (Freddy, Diva) and Jacques Savoie (Bombardier) and is directed by Pierre Houle (Monica la mitraille).

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