March 17, 2022
A CALQ grant recipient in creation This link will open in a new window for his films 21-22 CHINA and 21-22 USA, being released later this year, Thierry Loa transports viewers on vast cinematographic odysseys. These immersions in the universe, which some might describe as dream-like and surreal, are rather a mirror onto our civilization and its self-destruction. Portrait of a filmmaker fascinated by humanity.
Montréal-based Thierry Loa’s origins are global. In addition to his family roots, which he describes as “pretty diverse,” so diverse they have given him “a story to tell,” the director has studied on several continents and travelled widely. Exposed to film from a young age by his father, who would borrow up to ten films a week from a video club, Thierry Loa never pictured himself behind the camera. “But I did love drawing from a very young age. I would draw characters and even comics,” he says, in an interview with the CALQ.
A winding path
“My path to becoming a filmmaker was surely not a straight line,” he says. Interested and even intrigued by the notion of human existence, Thierry Loa used his early 20s to deepen his understanding of the world and his vision of himself in the world. While studying multimedia arts, geology, anthropology, and philosophy, the artist gradually defined his professional ambitions.
“And at that point I was having many ideas and feelings that I wanted to capture of the world and express to the world,” he explains. “So, I was seeking for the right medium which would allow me to express them and most importantly a medium which would feel natural to me. I was already considering cinema, but it wasn’t until I took a course in film and philosophy where we would analyze all kinds of films […] that I became excited about the prospects of making films, not as a hobby but as a profession.”
Courage and perseverance
Becoming a professional artist is rarely simple, and Thierry Loa had to self-finance his first projects, not knowing many people in film and lacking the confidence in his early days that he could obtain financing from institutions. “I then realized that this wasn’t sustainable if I kept fully self-funding my films and if I wanted to shape a proper film career,” he says. He wasn’t discouraged after his first application for funding was denied. “It was a learning curve to understand how to properly write and communicate the ideas and vision in a grant application.”
Now accustomed to writing financial aid applications, Thierry Loa even enjoys the exercise because it forces him to set out concisely in writing the ideas jostling around in his head. It is a skill he considers essential for anyone who wants to break into the profession.
The world as a human enterprise
A landmark project on Thierry Loa’s roadmap, 21-22 is a series of experience-based documentaries he has been developing for close to 10 years about the Anthropocene and the large-scale impacts of human activity on the biosphere. “It never ceases to fascinate me when I note how far we’ve come as a species especially with the idea that we as a human enterprise are now able to transform the planet’s ecosystems,” he says. “In fact, we are the first biological Earth species to be able to do so; henceforth we’ve become a geological force to be reckoned with. If we are able to unbalance these delicate planetary ecosystems, I believe or rather hope one day we’ll be able to rebalance them to undo the damage and avert further climate crises across the globe.” The filmmaker uses the expression “human enterprise” rather than “human civilisation” to refer to the behaviour, ideology, and industries in the post-modern era that remind him of the characteristics of an enterprise.
With no verbal narration, using a show rather than tell approach, the 21-22 films are a magnificent assemblage of scenes from different parts of the world. The assemblage takes a poetic, critical look at the contemporary world. Loa explains that the series was influenced by the work of Godfrey Reggio, godfather of contemporary non-verbal documentaries. The title, 21-22, is inspired by the short film by Arthur Lipsett, 21-87, representing the numbers of the series rather than the characters of the alphabet.
Beyond human scale
Filmed in virtual reality, the final parts of 21-22 invite film lovers on a flyover of the planet, to visit places normally hard to access, such as natural disasters and industrial settings, for a 360° perspective of the planet that humans are forging. Thierry Loa describes this perspective as “beyond human scale.”
The filmmaker, who plans to complete and release 21-22 USA later this year, is already thinking about the next part in his series. And he will finalize another interactive dramatic film, A Man and a Woman, in the coming year.
Explore Thierry Loa’s projects:
21-22 seriesThis link will open in a new window
20-22 OMEGA This link will open in a new window
A Man And A Woman This link will open in a new window
The filmmaker’s website This link will open in a new window
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