November 8th, 2012

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En Avant: A Significant Film Work in Progress on the French presence in Minnesota

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

UPDATE: May 29, 2013: Here’s a 5-minute preview of the film. Note that it may take a bit of time to download, and that a password is required to access: the password is: enavant2013

French film producer and director Christine Loys has released this up-to-date precis about her project: Précis 130513
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An important film on the French presence in Minnesota, En Avant, is being prepared for production and at some point in the future will be released in France and in Minnesota.

At a special event at Alliance Francaise Minneapolis, on October 10, 2012, explorer and environmental advocate Will Steger of Ely, made brief introductory remarks before a discussion about the En Avant project.

(click on photos to enlarge)

Will Steger at En Avant introduction at Alliance Francaise Minneapolis MN October 10, 2012

Why Will? The answer lies in one of those serendipity things some people call coincidences, but which to me have more of an “unseen hand” aspect to them. Christine: “Will Steger was there as my special guest because he was the first person to introduce me to Minnesota.”

Most Minnesotans know that back in April, 1986, Richfield native Will Steger led an intrepid group of adventurers on a trip by dogsled to the North Pole.

The adventure was successful, and back at home, on a chilly May day, I was among those who gathered outside the Minnesota state capitol for the welcome home. Theirs was a thrilling accomplishment.

At the time, there had been a small piece of news about a rather astonishing meetup on the Polar icecap on the 1986 adventure. It is best described by Jon Bowermaster, with this recollection by Will Steger:

“As I skied the last half mile [of the Antarctic crossing in 1989] I could not erase from my mind a picture of another time, another cold place. It was April 1986, the middle of the frozen Arctic Ocean, when [French doctor] Jean-Louis [Etienne] and I first met. He stepped to the top of a ridge of jumbled sea ice, seemingly out of nowhere, and we embraced, like brothers, though we’d never even been introduced. Everything that we’d done these past years evolved from that fated moment, from that embrace. We had turned our dreams – about adventure and cooperation, about preservation and the environment – into realities. We had the confidence to take risks, and the scene splayed in front of us now was our reward, our affirmation.

The Soviets had marked our entryway with red flags and made a Finish line. A gathering of one hundred, speaking a dozen different languages, swarmed around us as we came down the flag bedecked chute. As I called my dogs to a stop one last time and stepped out of my skis, Jean-Louis walked toward me. I lifted Sam onto my shoulder and Jean-Louis – completing the circle begun those years ago in the middle of the Arctic Ocean – wrapped us both in a bear hug.”

Back in France, Christine Loys, a photo journalist who initially was a friend of Dr. Etienne when he made his solo trek, became part of the Transantarctica expedition whose co-leaders were Will Steger and Dr Jean-Louis Etienne.

Will Steger, Christine Loys, Jean-Louis Etienne, 2009 in Paris, after Will had given a talk on climate change at the U.S. Embassy

Some time later, Ms Loys made a trip to this mysterious place called Minnesota, and in her journey through our state was startled to see French name after French name…towns, lakes, etc.

She learned that the motto of Minnesota is in French, L’Etoile du Nord; and that the motto of Minneapolis is En Avant, meaning “Forward”.

The French knew much about Quebec, and the French antecedents of Louisiana, but very little about this apparently French-drenched place called Minnesota, and Christine went to work.

The idea for a movie about the French in Minnesota was born, from the earliest days of people like Fr. Hennepin, to the present world-known Guthrie Theatre, designed by the French architect Atelier Jean Nouvel, which overlooks the very falls of St. Anthony which Frenchman Fr. Louis Hennepin saw and named in 1680.

Ms Loys hard work continues as she returns to France for some months, with plans to return to the Minnesota in 2013.

We wish her well.

Panelists at Alliance Francaise October 10, 2012

Panelists from left to right: Pierce McNally, attorney; Jérôme Chateau, CEP Normande Genetics, former President of the French American Chamber of Commerce (FACC) and today Vice President of FACC; François Fouquerel, Dean of “Les Voyageurs” at Concordia Language Villages; Robert Durant, Treasury/Secretary at the tribal Counsel of White Earth; Bob Perrizo, artist, journalist, writer, historian

Also speaking was Barbara Johnson, President of the City Council of Minneapolis who made the introduction. She is a descent of the French. Her maiden name is Rainville.

Dick Bernard was invited to make some remarks representing the 2012 Franco-Fete committee, of which five members were in attendance at the gathering.

This is also posted also here.