PRAYER FOR A LOST MITTEN79 min, documentary, Canada, 2019. Best Canadian Feature Documentary Award at Hotdocs Festival
Directed byJean-François Lesage
Produced byLes Films de l'Autre
The night is falling and Montreal is under the snow. People line up at the lost and found office of the city’s transit company. They all have lost something, which, upon reflection, becomes the symbol of a deeper loss. Prayer for a Lost Mitten is a creative documentary by turns melancholic and festive, yet ever compassionate. A film that helps us get through the winter.
Written and Directed by : Jean-François Lesage
Photography : Marianne Ploska
Editing :Mathieu Bouchard-Malo and Ariane Pétel-Despots
Sound : Marie-Andrée Cormier
Sound Design : Marie-Pierre Grenier
Sound Mix : Olivier Germain
Music : Tom Brunt
Produced by : Les Films de l’Autre, Jean-François Lesage
With Prayer for a Lost Mitten, I set out to explore the ideas of loss and longing — a longing for what is lost. From the get-go, I wanted to imbue my work with a certain nostalgia, which I did by filming in black-and-white and adding a jazz soundtrack, nodding to certain key films of the 60s. I also felt the Lost & Found at the Société de transport de Montréal would be a great place to start looking for protagonists. I wasn’t wrong.
My approach revolves around the notion that anyone could be the subject of a documentary. Everyone has something interesting to say; you just need to take the time to listen. It’s a question of perception. This theory, so rich in creative possibility, was however put to the test during the shoot, when my protagonists proved averse to spending long hours outdoors through the cold winter nights with my team. They ended up being less generous with us than they might have been during a summer shoot. Entirely understandable, of course.
But for me the theory still holds. To up the nostalgia factor further still, my working method is inspired by the 1974 Harmonium classic “Un Musicien Parmi Tant d’Autres” and its anthemic line:
On a mis quelqu’un au monde,
on devrait peut-être l’écouter
Which roughly translates to: “We’ve brought someone into this world, we should perhaps listen to them.”
After studying law, Jean-François Lesage began his career as a journalist for Radio-Canada television in Alberta and British Columbia. In 1998, shaken by the discovery of Chinese cinema, he headed to Beijing, where he was to spend six years. This is where he directed his first creative documentary, Sweet Nights Sour Nights (2004). He followed this up with How Can You Tell if the Little Fish are Happy? (2009) co-directed with his brother Philippe Lesage. Back in Montréal, he then made A Mile End Tale (2013), the closing film at Visions du Réel 2014, followed by A Summer Love (2015), winner of the Grand Prize for Best Canadian Feature at the RIDM. The Hidden River (2017), his fourth feature, won the Special Jury Prize (Canadian feature) at the RIDMFilmographie The Hidden River (2017 / 75 min) A Summer Love (2015 / 63 min) A Mile End Tale (2013 / 68 min) How can you tell if the little fish are happy? (2009 / 100 min) Sweet Nights Sour Nights (2004 / 52 min)