A 52 mins documentary, 2012
Behind a picturesque village whose natural beauty is displayed on countless postcards, there lies another village, one that grates and grinds, for the inhabitants of Percé, on the rugged Gaspé coast, face a harsh reality. Isolated and caught between a hardscrabble land and often stormy sea, they have fashioned a strong, fiercely independent identity. Perceived at times as builders and at other times as artists, tourist trap operators or even reactionaries (chasing off members of the FLQ in 1969 with fire hoses), the people of Percé have left their mark on the collective imagination. They have been seen as insubordinate rebels since the days of the French regime, and indeed the reputation of Percé as a place of questionable customs has deep roots.
The documentary Headstrong captures this independent spirit in a sensitive portrayal of the daily lives of four personalities who best embody this proud and fiery character. The spectator is invited to experience the rhythms of Percé through all four seasons. An ambitious parish priest, a nature-loving sculptor, a hard-working politician, also deep sea diver and part-time barman and a bohemian hotel owner guide the viewer through a unique human journey at the heart of a remarkable place that lies at the outermost bounds of Quebec. In a narrative interspersed with animated illustrations and dreamlike asides, the film explores issues of identity and economic and cultural survival in a region hit hard by exploitation of its natural resources, which has led to the disappearance of the cod fishery, a dying forestry industry and abandoned mines. The film is an original, intimate incursion into both the lives of five strong personalities and a unique village that is a popular tourist site in the summer, but a veritable ghost town in the winter. Not only splendid, Percé is also austere and highly competitive, a place where mythic legends abound, not to mention rumour, envy and jealousy in a village where everyone knows everyone else. The film is an invitation to discover the many facets of this physical and allegorical site, a place that haunts those who linger there for more than a few hours. Take the plunge.