Montreal-based Oscar winner Denys Arcand is one of Canada's most successful screenwriter-directors, whose intensely personal, challenging, and intellectual films have gained him a devoted international i following. Arcand was raised in a strict Catholic home and spent nine years in Jesuit school. He produced his first film, the short Seul ou avec d'autres (1962), while studying history at the University of Montreal.
After graduation, Arcand went to work for the National Film Board of Canada where, between 1964 and 1965, he made a trilogy of short historical documentaries about the early explorers and settlers of North America. In 1970, he directed On est au coton, a feature-length documentary about abuses in the textile industry that was officially banned, allegedly because of its "biased" point of view. Another politically oriented documentary - Quebec: Duplessis et apres (1972) - followed.
In 1972, Arcand directed his first feature, Une Maudite Galette, and in 1975 directed Gina, a story about a stripper and a film crew working on a documentary about the textile industry.
In The Decline of the American Empire (1986), a group of Quebecois intellectuals discuss the problems of sexuality, success, fidelity, intimacy and aging. A hit on the festival circuit and with critics and filmgoers in the U.S., the film won nine Genies, the Fipresci prize at Cannes and an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film.
Jesus of Montreal (1989) was inspired by an actor (who auditioned for The Decline of the American Empire) who was portraying Jesus in a play being performed for tourists visiting the city's famed Mont Royal. The director was fascinated with the lives of these Montreal artists who made a living as biblical figures by night and in beer commercials and porno films by day. It reflects Arcand's view that "the Catholic hierarchy is completely opposed to Christ's purest teachings."