1957, Quebec City
In 1995, visionary theatre director Robert Lepage made a spectacular film debut with his first feature, Le confessionnal. This visually arresting exploration of familial secrets and lies received ecstatic reviews and was honoured with four Genies, including best director.
While growing up in Quebec City, Lepage was drawn to art in all of its forms. In 1965, at 17 years old, he decided to focus on theatre and enrolled at Quebec City’s Conservatoire d’art dramatique. After his graduation and a short stint at Alain Knapp’s school in Paris, he began working on original works as an actor, author and director. He joined Théâtre Repère in 1982.
In 1984, Lepage created Circulations, which received an award for best Canadian production at the Quinzaine internationale de théâtre de Québec. In 1985, The Dragon's Trilogy garnered international acclaim and won a bevy of awards, followed by Vinci (1996) (his first solo show), Polygraph (1987) and Tectonic Plates (1988). From 1989 to 1993, Lepage was the artistic director of the National Arts Centre’s French theatre in Ottawa. This didn’t stop him from working on his own artistic projects, such as his second solo show, Needles and Opium (1991). The following year, he became the first North American to direct Shakespeare at London’s Royal National Theatre, with A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Lepage founded Ex Machina, a multidisciplinary production company, in 1994. At around the same time, he also launched his filmmaking career. His first feature, Le confessionnal (1995), opened the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival the following year and immediately established Lepage as a filmmaker to be reckoned with. Le confessionnal featured Lepage's signature visual technique. The film won two Genies for best director and best film, the Claude Jutra Award for best direction of a first feature and the SARDeC award for the best screenplay.
A year later, Lepage directed an adaptation of one of his own plays, Le polygraphe (1996), but the film was met with lukewarm reviews, audience indifference and a Genie shutout. He rebounded in 1998 with the award-winning Nô, a witty dissection of Quebec’s separatist impulses and the October Crisis, which won best Canadian film at the Toronto International Film Festival. In 2000, Lepage directed his first English-language film Possible Worlds, a unique and fascinating blend of science, philosophy and tabloid sensationalism.
Apart from his recent work in film, in September 1999, his version of the opera La damnation de Faust was presented in Japan, before showing again in Paris in June 2001. In 2000, Lepage worked on the Métissages exhibit at the Musée de la Civilisation in Quebec City, and created his third solo show, the far side of the moon, which received several awards. He is currently working on a world tour of his latest production, La Caza Azul, while preparing a fifth feature film and working with London’s Royal Opera on an opera adapted from George Orwell’s 1984.