The bell rings at the end of the day in a small rural school.

Credit: Radio-Canada, colour, 01:16


¿Illusion? denounces the damaging effects of runaway urbanization on the natural environment. The film also questions dehumanizing technology and the false dreams held out by our consumer society. In the epilogue, Frédéric Back expresses his wish to see children reject the gizmos and gimcrackery of a destructive 'progress' that he sees as… an illusion.

In this, the fourth film produced under the international exchange program, Frédéric Back's adoption of a more serious tone was backed by those in charge of youth programming at Radio-Canada, who appreciated the artist's great inventiveness. The film premiered on national television in prime time on a Sunday evening.


In an idyllic natural setting, children are happily at play, surrounded by animal friends. There is gaiety, harmony and discovery, accompanied by laughter and birdsong. Enter a strange figure: a one-man-band who turns out to be a magician. He fascinates the children by transforming a rabbit into a mechanical toy and a bird into a whistle. The little ones, delighted, clap and cheer. The magician goes on and on, casting spells on flowers, forests, and even the sun. Everything is transformed. Smiling nature has become a megalopolis bristling with smokestacks. The children's pleasure turns to consternation. Despite dire threats from the magician, they rally their forces, chase him away and break through the illusion he has created around them. Nature, rediscovered, joyously welcomes the children back.


Frédéric Back has long raged against over-consumption and the pollution that ensues. In ¿Illusion?, the activist filmmaker tries to portray the schism with nature in a way that children can understand. Natural beauty and simple lifestyles and pastimes are destroyed to make way for artifice and gimmicks, all in the name of 'progress.'

¿Illusion? points up the obsession with development that pushes humankind to constantly adopt new technologies, which are often superfluous and potentially dangerous. "Rarely are we able to replace what has been destroyed. But the upbeat ending of the film offers a ray of hope and is a source of motivation. We know we are distancing ourselves from nature. We can free ourselves from the shackles of progress and reconnect to what is vital, alive and true!" (F.B.)

Although the film is geared to youngsters, the story can also serve as a springboard for discussion among adults wishing to address these issues themselves or take them up with their children.