The crowd cheers the floats saluting progress.

Credit: Radio-Canada, colour, 00:46


Taratata, Frédéric Back's fifth film produced under the European Broadcasting Union exchange program, pays tribute to the parades held on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, Quebec's national holiday. Although it highlights a part of Quebec's past, its concerns extend to all countries where patriotic demonstrations take place.

The film's origins go back to 1956, when Frédéric Back was asked to provide illustrations for Fête et parade—a musical work by Quebec composer Michel Perrault that aired on the Radio-Canada program L'Heure du concert. Since the piece was slated for broadcast on the eve of Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day and since its style warranted it, producer Pierre Mercure asked the illustrator to evoke the traditional parade with its marching bands and majorettes.

In Taratata, Quebec viewers will recognize many aspects of these parades, which celebrated their history from the first colonists right to the advocates of progress (who, the film seems to suggest, are perhaps too eager to have done with the past). The film abounds with delightfully satiric details, including the RCMP riders who open the parade, Les Dames de Sainte-Anne marching in military formation, the Radio-Canada camera crew unceasingly focussed on the dignitaries, and the multiple flags and pennants that together make up the American flag. These rich local allusions serve to enhance a universal theme. The attentive viewer will also note a rocking chair in the first frames: the predecessor of a more famous rocking chair to come.


It's parade day! The city is bright with banners and flags, and flowers are everywhere. The parade begins. Riders prance before the dignitaries' bandstand, followed by brass bands and floats that recall the glorious events of the past and evoke a bright future. A little boy, accompanied by his faithful dog, vainly tries to get a glimpse of the parade through the legs of the adults who line the streets. Frightened off by a policeman, the boy runs away. When he returns, everything is over. In the empty street, he sits beside his dog, mechanically twirling a broken flag found on the ground. Surprise! The music starts up again as the little boy's imagination recreates a fantasy parade, one that outshines the first in splendour.


Through this patriotic parade, the activist filmmaker aims a few arrows at the notion of technological progress at the expense of nature. "I wanted to draw a parallel between this emphasis on industrialization and the decline of our natural resources. I also wanted to contrast adult pretensions with the poetry of a child's fantasy, which summons up a parade imbued with tenderness and love for creation."