The family’s harrowing journey from Haiti to Quebec, told in the Montreal director’s debut film

Kanaval is the first feature film from Montreal director Henri Pardo and has already won awards.

It is an immigration story told through the eyes of a nine-year-old child who makes the journey from Haiti to Quebec with his family in the 1970s.

The film premieres in Montreal on Friday evening. When it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) last year, the film won the Amplify Voices Award for Best Canadian BIPOC Film. It received several other nominations and awards and Pardo will take it to festivals around the world.

Pardo wrote and directed Kanaval and is inspired by his own family’s immigration story. He was born in New Brunswick, but his parents and sisters fled the Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti and eventually settled in Canada.

The film tells the story of Rico, 9, who flees the country with his mother in the 1970s and arrives in a small rural town in Quebec with the help of an elderly couple. Rico must adapt to life in a new province and has to deal with bullies and racism.

To cope, he conjures up an imaginary friend who becomes his guide as he figures out life in his new world.

The young actor who plays Rico is Rayan Dieudonné, who has a story very similar to his character. He and his family left Haiti in 2018 and traveled through seven countries before arriving in Canada via Roxham Road.

The English subtitled version of the film will be shown at Cinéma du Musée at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.