The Student Diaries (2014)

It would be the year that changed everything. Banners, tear gas, police brutality, bias media, and endless marches to what became the largest social movement in North American history. The documentary begins when the Quebec Liberal Government announced a tuition increase in 2011, thus following the evolution of the protests through the eyes of the hundreds of thousands involved. It features archive footage from the monthly 22nd protests, interviews, and speeches by student representatives such as Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, Martine Desjardins and Léo Bureau-Blouin.

English Title: The Student Diaries
French Title: Les étudiants, un journal intime
Subtitles: English, French available
Length: 75 minutes
Format: 1080p, 480p
Location: Quebec, Canada
Dates of Production: February 2, 2012-March 16, 2014

Director: Karina  Lafayette (credited as Karina Licursi)



Erica Mazerolle – Interview

Jane Ellis – Interview

Cassie Smith – Interview

Tom McGurk – Interview

Martine Desjardins – Former President of Quebec University Federation – Interview

Jeanne Reynolds – Former Speaker of CLASSE – Interview

Devon Walcott – Interview

Zach Brown – Narrator (voice)


Director’s Notes:

Why I Film What I Film:
How The Student Diaries Got Made

Youth. Rant. Angst. Lust. No- Rant. Youth. Angst. Love.

Order doesn’t matter. Jean-Luc Goddard, after all, said that “a film should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order”. And if that’s the case, should a film be made about my life, it would begin the year I turned twenty, and end the year I was born.

Why? Well, I like to say my life began at age twenty. That age, for me, coincided with 2012, the year the Mayan calendar “ended”. It was also the year Quebec experienced a rebirth- and it was both painful and blissful.

My uncle gave me my first camera that January. I looked at it, honestly not knowing what would be born from this Fuji Finepix T550, other than short films. How arrogant of me to think that, since I didn’t even know how to handle a camera.

Several weeks later, student protests slowly emerged. I felt both curious and alienated, since the media hadn’t explained the reason they were protesting. As a staff writer for “The Plant”, Dawson College’s newspaper, I took up the opportunity for my second assignment to be about an upcoming university protest on February 2nd.

We were to meet at the Concordia Hall Building. Arriving there nervously, my mind was filled with images of pepper-sprayed-angry-young-people that dominated newspapers. None of this happened that day. In fact, it was the first time I felt like a Quebecker, never having experienced that kind of cultural unity before.

Only a thousand or so students went marching, yet with my camera in hand, a part of me knew this was the start of a beautiful friendship.

By early March, restless energy was apparent in the halls at school. You couldn’t walk anywhere without a debate going on. The generation I despised growing up due to their cellphones and pop music, that made me wish I had grown up in flower power and road trips to Woodstock and Monterrey, gained a voice of its own.

Then it happened, something no groundhog could predict when seeing his shadow: March 22nd. I asked a classmate of mine whether the attendance was larger than the national day of strike that occurred November 10th of the previous year. She felt just as flustered as I did. Students from across the province gathered at Place du Canada. If it had not been for the empty trees, you could be fooled into thinking this was a midsummer’s day.

The protest lasted for five hours, keeping Montreal in paralysis. Once we arrived at the Old Port, I looked up at a television through the window of a restaurant, while simultaneously listening to speeches from student groups and workers’ unions. Onscreen, the local news was showing helicopter footage of Downtown Montreal. We were over 200 thousand people.

Seeing my camera could be exploited for more than whatever archive footage captured, that’s when I decided to spam the inboxes of student unions from various CEGEP’s and universities that were on strike, asking for anyone interested in being interviewed for a documentary to contact me. This is how The Student Diaries came to be.

It took much longer to direct than expected, and the idea of making a feature at the time was beyond me.

Aside from not being able to afford the most pretentious software of the cinema world, groups like the National Film Board and Telefilm couldn’t help fund the project unless I were in university, which meant there wouldn’t be a budget either. Yet every month my video timeline grew longer. A film this size without a budget is like giving birth without an epidural.

I took prolonged breaks in-between, and sometimes wondered when the motivation to complete the film would finally take place. I thought about all the great stories told by those I interviewed, and the times I changed the channel in frustration, knowing the protest I just attended was more significant than the small group of rebels in black throwing rocks at windows. Aside from them, there were the young people with something important to say.

Among those interviewed in The Student Diaries are; Devon Walcott, an aspiring journalist who amazingly had the boldness to describe what it’s like to be hit by a projectile; Jeanne Reynolds, former cospeaker of CLASSE; and Martine Desjardins, former president of the Quebec University Federation (FEUQ), both whom didn’t receive half the media coverage they deserve for their hard work.

“We each had our own caricature in the media,” explains Desjardins, “Léo, who was the nice boy, Gabriel, who some thought was a Che Guevara-type, and I in the middle there to balance one or the other. […] It didn’t really project the reality of what we were doing.”

Also interviewed is Érica Mazerolle, who decided to join CLASSE to become more directly involved in the movement; Tom McGurk, a student originally from the United States; Cassie Smith of British Columbia; and Jane Ellis of Ontario, both who comment on how they felt their families back home weren’t receiving proper coverage of what was going on in Quebec.

Watching the film today, I know why it got done: subconsciously, my mind understood that made into a film, the 2012 Quebec student movement would now become permanent. Today, the events of that year are now only images- images that will last forever.

Of course, some of these images are shocking, even difficult to watch, knowing all this is real, unrehearsed, and what the province lived. Then again, if people were aware of when their actions are making history, they wouldn’t have enough scars to prove their credibility, hence the cliché of life not being a dress rehearsal.

So this is why my life only began at twenty. Before then, I was passive, stubborn- yes, but I saw everything through the rose-colored glasses that others imposed on me. They controlled the setting, the soundtrack, and the script. I was merely a player, as Shakespeare noted.

Now I see through a zoom lens instead, a very clear one. – KL