Mario Dumont changes his colours with protectionist dubbing bill

The proposed film law sounds more like something the PQ would come up with

17. Actualité archives 2007

Have you taken your kids to see the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie? Did you manage to stay awake between the action scenes, let alone follow the plot and subplots well enough to explain it all to them?
There might not be much you can do about it when the movie to which you take your kids turns out to be incomprehensible, to you as well as to them. But that's because you're not Mario Dumont.
When the Action democratique leader recently took his three kids to see the animated feature Shrek the Third, they had trouble understanding the Parisian expressions in the French version of the film, which was dubbed in France.

But since Dumont is leader of the Action democratique opposition in the National Assembly, he didn't have to settle for explaining that Hollywood sometimes releases movies that are hard to follow for reasons that have nothing to do with language.
Instead, he could promise his kids to wave a legislative magic wand to make lovable green monsters in animated features speak more clearly. And that's apparently just what he did after the Shrek screening.
So this week, the ADQ introduced a bill to amend the Cinema Act, which already requires that most films shown here be available in French, so that the French-language version would have to be produced in Quebec.
Has Dumont suddenly gone Pequiste on us? His response to his kids' unfortunate Shrek experience is more typical of what we've come to expect from the Parti Quebecois than the ADQ.
It's the PQ that has a knee-jerk reaction to the surfacing of any problem, no matter how minor or isolated. It always chooses a legislated, bureaucratic, preferably coercive solution.
And it's the PQ that is close to the Quebec performers' union, the Union des artistes, which has been lobbying for just such legislation for years.
Last December, PQ MNA Daniel Turp tabled a petition circulated by the UdA and containing more than 20,000 signatures calling for a law requiring French dubbing in Quebec. The UdA would go farther than the ADQ, having the law apply not only to films shown in theatres but also to those sold on DVDs and even by download from the web (though in the latter case, enforcement might be difficult).
The present PQ culture critic, Pierre Curzi, was president of the performers' union until he ran in the March 26 election, and he must be kicking himself for letting the ADQ beat his party to the punch. All he could do was express support for the ADQ bill and raise the ante by repeating the UdA line about extending it to DVDs and downloads.
Unlike the PQ, the ADQ is supposed to be opposed to excessive government intervention to address problems that can be solved in the marketplace and to protectionist measures primarily benefiting a particular interest group. In this case, that's the 800 people employed in the Quebec dubbing industry.
Already, the UdA says, more than 70 per cent of the French film versions shown in Quebec theatres are dubbed in this province. (The union says the percentage declined last year to 73 per cent from 78 per cent in both the previous years, but such a one-year fluctuation might not be significant.)
Some studios, notably Disney's Buena Vista and Warner, dub all their films in Quebec, the union says, while Fox and Paramount (distributor of Shrek the Third) have only about half of theirs dubbed here.
This is a problem one would expect the ADQ to leave to the marketplace to solve. For if Quebec audiences prefer locally dubbed films, it would be reflected in the box-office receipts, sending a clear message. The major studios can well afford the cost of dubbing a film in this province, which is about $75,000.
But Dumont apparently wanted to get his name in the news for something other than the error he committed last week when he left Quebec City during the final negotiations over the budget deadlock between the Charest government and the PQ.

Along with the Shrek bill, the ADQ also introduced a bill that in future transit strikes would require the workers to maintain 80 per cent of normal services, in effect rendering useless their right to strike.
Apparently, the bills were hastily drafted. Even with the support of the PQ on the Shrek bill, Dumont wasn't sure whether the Assembly rules would allow the ADQ to force its adoption on the minority Liberal government before the next election.
But if he has any other ideas on how to make Hollywood films easier to understand - even in their original language - parents can only hope he comes out with them before the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

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