Y’a une étoile (2023) [Fantasia Film Festival 2023] 

A documentary about queer life in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick as seen through the eyes of queer people and their loved ones interconnected with the songs of Angele Arsenault. 

Writer-director Julien Cadieux takes a very particular approach to this documentary mixing interviews with music and musical numbers, creating a very particular film that shows a lot of personality and heart. The way the interviewees’ lives are brought to the screen is charming and simple, giving them the room to talk about themselves and their lives in the way they want too. Cadieux frames these with the songs of Acadian (or Acadienne here) Angele Arsenault who is a bit of an icon for many of the people speaking here. Here work is interwoven with theirs, creating a soundtrack perfect for their talk of being who they are, how they came out in their small villages and communities in Acadie (Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Eastern provinces of Canada) where fear of isolation and rejection are very much present for anyone different than what is expected of them. Here, the interviewees also perform some of the songs in their own way, some lip-syncing and some singing and playing instruments. The way this all works together takes the film from a low budget, particular interest documentary to something much bigger.

The film here discusses all the ways the stars have been ostracized, accepted, othered, and incorporated in their communities. There is a bit of Acadian queer history discussed and it’s made clear that acceptance is still not easy for many. The film also discusses how within the queer community, one can be othered simply by language as Acadie is a place where folks often speak French in small villages mixed with others who speak English, giving the area a mixed culture. This language barrier also comes in terms of word options, how they/them was not an option in French until very recently, something they had to work around, leaving their French language behind and using English often to better establish their identity. With this, the film also appeals to those who have dealt with the otherness of speaking a different language than their preferred one, showing how language makes a large difference in how one is accepted culturally.  

Y’a une étoile may have a lower budget, but it’s shot and edited in way that makes it easier to connect with those on the screen. It’s simple and it works. The cinematography is well-done with good framing, and it feels like the film brings the viewer into the subjects’ lives. It feels personal while not feeling intrusive. There is something about this style that works great here, a simple, yet personal style that gives everyone on screen the time and space they need to express themselves in words, music, and performance.  

Y’a une étoile is a personal, vulnerable, touching documentary that should help some viewers better understand the life of queer people in small communities, how otherness can affect them in many ways, and how acceptance can make all the difference. This is a simple documentary without any flashy anything, it’s a documentary made for its message more than its style, yet its style is something that helps set it apart from other documentaries released recently. It’s a bit of a slower watch, but once into it, it’s easy to let the people on the screen tell you their stories, their struggles, and their ambitions while connecting with them through their love of music, of each other, and of life. 

This year the Fantasia International Film Festival runs in Montreal from July 20th to August 9th.