Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dreaming about Champlain, Dreamy Champlain, Champlain's Dream

I've been intermittently watching Le Rêve de Champlain on TFO, the French-language TVOntario (the program is also online from their website, and Champlain tweets, too, I understand).

I'd say I'm entertained. It moves fast; it's lively and modern. The reenactments are brief and not forced to carry too much freight. There's lots of digital display, and lively interactive maps.  The talking heads are brief, and lots of the narrative is carried by hip young "correspondents" who stand in attractively shot modern landscapes (Honfleur -- I wanna go) to describe what Champlain did here 400 years ago. So Vincent Leclerc -- correspondent: Ontario -- stands in the parking lot of a Syracuse, NY, shopping centre and explains why it occupies the same space as the Onondaga fortified village Champlain and the Huron attacked in 1615.  Quebec City never looked better, and nor did the rapids of the Mattawa or the French River.

The program's strength is also its weakness: it has a strong hero, which makes for a strong narrative line.  But for the rest of us, it's pretty great-mannish, based on David Hackett Fischer's dream of Champlain the humanist who only came to Canada so that Europeans and Amerindians would live together. Nah.  I wish someone could capture that moment as a handful of European aliens on an Amerindian planet, and make the First Nations more than supporting castmembers and arquebus-fodder.

And 'tseems they are skipping entirely the recently found baptismal certificate that seems to fix Champlain's birthdate at August 1674.  That date makes even more completely impossible the never plausible whimsy that Champlain might have been the son of Henri IV, which the program and Fischer both play happily with.

But I'm still watching.

Image: TFO.
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