LA VIE À VIF (2006)

Two one hour documentary
Length: 2 x 52 min.


Director: Guy Simoneau
Research and writing: Guy Simoneau
Director of photography: Guy Simoneau
Soundman: Daniel Provencher
Editor: Danielle Gagné
Production: Pixcom
Producer: Nicole Faucher
Broadcaster: Télé-Québec
Distribution: Pixcom and GRICS


La vie à vif depicts the daily life of institutionalized young offenders, 14 to 18 years old, whose chances have been poor since childhood. These two documentaries, one focusing on the boys and the other on the girls, reveal an environment that few of us are familiar with. Inside this closed living space, we get to know several rebellious yet pathetic teenagers who have a lot to say.

As the film was shot over many months, a certain evolution of the teenagers living in these precarious conditions can be seen in La vie à vif. Anger, sadness, disillusionment, and hope fill the hearts of these young people, who are looking for a place in the sun.


A note from the director
In the Province of Quebec, youth centres with the mandate of helping youth in difficulty and rehabilitating young offenders have been operating for 25 years. There are 17 of them in Quebec. Social workers, clinical consultants, psychologists, and teachers work with about 10,000 of these children and teenagers.

As a filmmaker, my goal was to show this microcosm from the inside, to reveal a little-known milieu and the reasons these teenagers are marginalized in the current social context. I wanted to show how these young people develop in this forced passage, and to allow them to air their grievances and criticisms.

Both parts of La vie à vif were filmed in a youth centre in Laval, L’Équipage with the boys, and Les 4 Saisons with the girls, all between 14 and 18 years old. These young people have experienced drug abuse, dropping out, running away, prostitution, street gangs, and abusive parents. The two documentaries express a global and compassionate point of view.

To tell this story, I had to convince administrators, educators, the teenagers, their parents, and the legal authorities. Before shooting, I spent a great deal of time researching and immersing myself in the lives of these kids. The crew was composed of only two people: myself as cameraman/director, and a sound man. The cramped locations and the fragility of boys and girls obliged us to work this way.

The most difficult problem to overcome is that these young people’s fragile states compound their precarious situations. Living in a closed circuit is made up of many irritations, false hopes and disappointments: a weekend outing cancelled at the last minute, difficulties getting in touch with a social worker, anticipated phone-calls or visits that don’t come off, conflicts with other teenagers or educators, and punishment. Because of what they face inside these walls and their emotional deprivation, every day―almost every hour―, it is necessary to re-establish their trust and respect.

I had the opportunity to shoot several situations showing these kids’ ups and downs, their successes, and their small victories. The two documentaries use neither narration nor music, except background music, to avoid either over-dramatizing or softening reality.

La vie à vif was the most difficult documentary I’ve done, but it is the one I cherish the most. The privilege of being close to these adolescents for the length of a year was precious to me. The fact that they consider the documentaries a good and fair mirror of what they go through touches me as a filmmaker. I’m very grateful to them.

Guy Simoneau