MONTREAL – Rock Demers, one of the most influential figures in Quebec children’s cinema, has died at the age of 87.
The producer, who made films under his company Les Productions La Fête, helped shape a generation of Canadian family entertainment with titles dubbed in English as “The Peanut Butter Solution,” “The Dog Who Stopped the War” and the Tommy Tricker adventure film series.
In 1963, Demers was one of the co-founders of a film conservatory now known as La Cinémathèque québécoise.
He also directed Montreal’s International Film Festival for six years starting in 1962, and created the company Faroun Films in 1965, where he stayed until 1978.
But it was Demers’ move to create Les Productions La Fête in 1980 where he found a singular success in family entertainment with films made under the “Tales for All” family film series.
Most of the storylines featured everyday Quebec children embarking on mysteries or adventures.
“Bach and Broccoli,” as it was released in English, was a family drama with a young orphan girl as the central character, while “The Clean Machine” told the story of a group of kids who launch a housekeeping service over summer break.
Many of the “Tales for All” films found audiences outside Quebec on Canadian pay TV and cable showings.
“The Dog Who Stopped the War,” released in 1984, won the Golden Reel Award at the Genies for being Canada’s highest-grossing film at the domestic box-office.
“I lived a very poor childhood, but very happy, and I think the more we give young people the chance to laugh, the better we prepare them to face life’s difficulties later on,” Demers told the Nouvelliste in 2014.
He said it was that desire to make young people happy that led him to a career in children’s movies.
In the same interview, he said reading an article about the suicide rate for children between the ages of 12 and 17 was what motivated him to create “Tales for All.”
“I was at an age where I knew life was hard, but that it was worth living,” he told the media outlet. “I asked myself what I could do for some youth who were reflecting on the subject, so that they realized it was worth continuing.”
His honours included the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France and being named an Officer of the Order of Canada. He also received lifetime achievement recognition from the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug 18, 2021