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Director Sophie Dupuis wins Best Canadian Feature Film at TIFF

The School of Cinema grad’s Solo takes deep dive into the world of drag
October 10, 2023
By Richard Burnett, BA 88

Still of a man with short brown hair smoking a cigarette in the change room of a nightclub Félix Maritaud plays a drag queen in Sophie Dupuis’s Solo. | Photo: Lou Scramble

Director Sophie Dupuis, BFA 10, has been quickly garnering attention in recent years — both in her home province of Quebec and beyond. Her critically-acclaimed drama Chien de garde (Family First, 2018) represented Canada in the Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film in 2019, and now, her third feature film, Solo, was awarded Best Canadian Feature Film at its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September.

“I am thrilled with this honour and I share it with the cast and crew who became my family while filming,” says the graduate of Concordia’s Film Production program. “Solo is a story of the universal themes of love, intimacy and healing that connect us all.”

In its preview of Solo, The Hollywood Reporter hailed Dupuis as having “solid promise to follow Denis Villeneuve and the late Jean-Marc Vallée as one of the top creative voices out of French-speaking Quebec.”

Solo, which Dupuis both wrote and directed, marks her third collaboration with Théodore Pellerin, the 26-year-old actor who is the central character of the film.

“Working with Sophie has been a turning point in my career,” says Pellerin. “She has much love and respect for the people she works with, and a luminous attitude that is really contagious. It feels extremely safe to be within her gaze.”

Dupuis says she wrote Solo partly for Pellerin as she envisioned him in the role from the get-go.

“Théodore is a rare and incredible talent whom I saw grow into a magnificent human being and close friend since he was 18,” she says. “He truly is an artistic muse whose sensibilities bring an added dimension to the film.”

‘A positive societal impact’

Photo of a woman with a dark tshirt and blonde hair in a ponytail looks into the camera in front of a dark wall. Film director and Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema grad Sophie Dupuis | Photo: Eva-Maude TC

Solo tells the story of a Montreal drag queen (Pellerin) who endures two toxic relationships: the first with Olivier, a drag artist and manipulative lover played by French actor Félix Maritaud, and a second with his cold and distant mother, a famous opera singer played by Anne-Marie Cadieux.

The cast also includes Jean Marchand, Vlad Alexis, Tommy Joubert and Marc-André Leclair (also known as Montreal drag queen Tracy Trash) as the film’s “drag group”.

Dupuis, who identifies as queer, says it was imperative to authentically recreate the world of drag.

“The majority of our cast is queer, as are many of the people working behind the camera. This was important to me because they had the freedom to help shape this film. If they were not a part of the community, I never would have gotten that input,” she adds.

“Many cast and crew members told me they felt as if they were participating in a project that would have a positive societal impact, and wished that they could have seen films like Solo when they were growing up.”

‘No one way to create art’

The movie — released on September 15 in Quebec and on October 6 across Canada — comes on the heels of protests against drag shows and artists across North America.

“In the United States, many protestors are really using drag as a way to target the trans community,” Dupuis says.

Trailer for Solo, which won Best Canadian Film at TIFF this year.

She adds that when filming Solo she had no idea about the coming culture war over drag. “Queer people grow up in a heteronormative society and we become queer anyway. So it’s not true that if we come into contact with queer people and queer culture that we will become queer,” she says. “But by presenting diversity to young people who are queer, they learn to accept themselves and know there is a place for them in society.”

These guiding principles have followed Dupuis since her days at Concordia. “The diversity of students with whom I studied and became friends showed me how I could approach film differently. We are all unique and there is no one way to create art.” 


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