The FIJM affirms that it will not be censored “SLĀV”

Le FIJM assure ne pas avoir censuré «SLĀV»

Photo: Catherine Legault Duty
The direction of the festival said to have begun a dialogue with the community, afro-montreal, in order to understand what has shocked.

First, it is the injury of Betty Bonifassi, then the security concerns that have prompted the management of the Festival international de jazz de Montréal (FIJM) to cancel nine performances that remained in the show SLĀV.

“We don’t have the impression of having caved in to censorship, because it is important to note that our decision is not intended that these performances scheduled during the festival and in no way implies that the show is no longer broadcast in the future,” said Jacques-André Dupont, president-director general of the FIJM, during a press conference balance sheet of the festival on Saturday afternoon.

Mr. rogers read a long statement of the FIJM, in which he stressed that the festival is a broadcaster, not a producer. “The festival does not endorse any of the content in advance and it allows the artists full artistic freedom. “This, therefore, was not at the FIJM to defend or criticize the production, he said.

He argued that the whole team of the festival was the “surprise of the turn of events” around SLĀV, which has raised a controversy as to the question of cultural appropriation. Created by Betty Bonifassi and Robert Lepage, SLĀV presented himself as an ” odyssey theatre through the songs of the slaves, but only had two backup singers black on six performers.

Why not have given from the outset the reasons for the cancellation of the show — many saw it as a violation of the freedom of artistic expression, and Robert Lepage wrote that the production was “muzzled” ? According to Mr. Smith, there was first a technical impossibility to continue : Betty Bonifassi suffered a broken foot after three performances, she was operated under general anesthesia and is still found today in the plaster, according to the information that was disclosed Saturday.

“We should have reacted before, and we would have had better communication “, was recognized Saturday, Jacques-André Dupont. “But it is complicated because there were three partners in [the FIJM, Ex Machina and Theatre of the New World, where the show was presented]. It slows down the process, and I also wanted the producers to express themselves. “

Mr. Dupont indicated that the FIJM will focus on ” how to better communicate in the future. The crisis could have been managed better. “


But most importantly, the direction of the Festival said to have begun a dialogue with the community, afro-montreal, in order to understand what has shocked. A first meeting of four hours took place Friday. “Our organization needs to be better connected to the community afrodescendante,” said Mr. Dupont.

And if it had been, “it probably would have been able to have a discussion in advance” and understand upstream that SLĀV would raise such questions, according to Mr. Dupont. “SLĀV has been a trigger of something that was present. “

That has included the FIJM of the controversy ? “We have found that the debate was much more profound than simply the show SLĀV… That a lot of people, and even artists, have expressed their views on this important topic. We understood that the wounds of the past were still alive for many of our fellow citizens ; injuries often profound and justified. “

“I gives us the challenge to do better and find what you can make good on it. “

The decision to cancel was made the day after the decision of the singer of afro-american Moses Sumney to cancel his show scheduled at the FIJM to protest against the support of the following towards the production SLĀV. Sumney has published a long explanatory letter, giving an international flavour to the controversy.

“It is sure that it’s striking that an artist cancels for this kind of question [of consciousness],” said Mr. Dupont. It was a hard blow, but this is not the reason that led to the decision to cancel. “Later, he reiterated that it is” a set of human elements and techniques that has been used in making our final decision.”

Open letter

In an open letter (collected in oral form), published in La Presse + Saturday, Betty Bonifassi, for his part, called it “very serious, even unacceptable” the fact ” to cancel a show at a music festival, because artists require, to protest on a show they have never seen.”

“Freedom of expression has been flouted, last Wednesday. To us, ” she said. Betty Bonifassi does not mention in his text, the fact that she would not be able to continue to play.

The artist, who works on the project of slave songs for several years, has justified the decision to have a distribution predominantly white in saying that ” the history of the show is not about that slavery of the african people deported to the Americas, but also the slavery suffered by the SLĀVes of the Balkans, the Irish, the Asians of today. Therefore, it seemed normal to represent the world correctly. “

Regarding the accusations against SLĀV about cultural appropriation, Betty Bonifassi replied with a series of questions : “are you Going to change the course of history of music, as she explains to us that our modern music probably comes from work songs ? Are we going to block the access to the knowledge and information of persons who are not citizens of the knowledge that they are studying ? Are we going to forbid a teen girl haitian to study Bach as was the case with Nina Simone ? “

She also wondered if ” cultural appropriation in 2018 is more a kind of censorship that the protection of minorities. To all my musician friends who have supported me — or not — know that I love music as much as you and nothing or nobody will remove it from the soul. “


The cancellation of the representations SLĀV will cost “a few hundreds of thousands of dollars” to the three partners of the project, but the amount has not been disclosed. The FIJM has ensured that all the artists of the production will be paid as expected.

Regarding the security, Jacques-André Dupont argued that there was a ” fear that the situation is intensifying “. “We had to take into account possible slippage possible if the performances continued. “

The direction of the FIJM has also made a positive review of the 39th edition. But no figure — occupancy rate of rooms, the sales on the site, attendance — was not yet available Saturday. The effects of the heat wave are still unknown.