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PHI Antenne Balado Noire Taniaet Will COVER
Photo: Adil Boukind

Revealing Untold Stories

  • Podcast
  • PHI Centre

To mark the presentation of Colored: The Unknown Life of Claudette Colvin at the PHI Centre, the author behind the work, Tania De Montaigne, is in conversation with Will Prosper, documentary filmmaker. 

Together, they discuss the protagonist’s forgotten story, presented through augmented reality, after being recounted in the form of a biographical essay, adapted as a graphic novel and then as a play. The two artists discuss the choice of the medium to convey certain emotions and bring pieces of history back to life.

(in French only)

PHI Antenna Balado Noire Taniaet Will IMG1
Photo: Adil Boukind


The adaptation of the work Colored: The Unknown Life of Claudette Colvin into augmented reality is the result of a unique encounter, or rather an unlikely chemistry, between its three creators: Tania de Montaigne, Stéphane Foenkinos and Pierre-Alain Giraud. PHI spoke with the latter two during their visit to Montréal for the opening of the experience, at the PHI Centre.

Stéphane Foenkinos defines himself as a theatre director, but above all as a lover of the transmission of knowledge. Pierre-Alain Giraud is a director and producer. The two artists say that their work together on this project began, first and foremost, with Tania de Montaigne's text, which they describe as incredible. 

"Everything comes from her, she is our inspiration, our muse,"

says Stéphane. He adds that the spark behind this project came from the discovery of a woman, Claudette Colvin, with whom they were not familiar.

Before the creation of this augmented reality work, Tania de Montaigne, who had never been on stage before, and Stéphane Foenkinos, who had never before directed a play, decided to experiment together and bring the author's text to the theatre. It is here that Pierre-Alain Giraud, in turn, makes his entry, in order to create projections on stage during the play: “It was already a bit like a theatrical documentary. [Pierre-Alain] had already created an augmented reality system unlike anything else in the world, because it was truly groundbreaking. And it was while we were working together [on the staging of the play] that he said 'this story is worth attempting in augmented reality'."

Augmented reality was thus an obvious choice. Pierre-Alain Giraud explains that he had never used virtual reality but had always been attracted to augmented reality: this medium allows you to stay connected to others without ever having to go through the experience alone. "You're still very much in reality, with people around you, and you're having an experience alongside others. That's what was important to us, too. That's what attracted Tania and Stéphane to embark on this experience, because it's a story about how we construct society, and to tell that story, we needed a medium that would allow us to always have others in sight."

PHI Antenne Balado Noire Taniaet Will IMG2
Photo: Adil Boukind

The three artists sought to create a collective experience, which questions our relationship to history, but also our relationship to others. In augmented reality, movement in space, which allows us to discover the work from different angles and points of view, requires us to pay attention to the people who are living the experience with us.

And that's exactly what they intend to do for the audience. At the end of the creative process, the two directors had the chance to talk to Claudette Colvin, who is now 84 years old and lives in Texas. They asked her what message she would like to convey to the public. Claudette Colvin replied, quite simply, that she wanted people to leave the experience having learned her story, saying that we must fight for the rights of all people, at all times. It's a universal message that Claudette delivers: human rights concern us all, without discrimination; it is necessary to fight for everyone, whatever injustice we may witness.

"Heroism undoubtedly lies in the actions of people we hardly ever speak about. It's the ordinary heroes that appeal to me and inspire me,"

says Stéphane. The artists involved in this work hope that everyone will walk away from the experience with the conviction that action is essential and worth a thousand words, but also that it is possible for each and every one of us to be courageous in the same way as Claudette Colvin.

For Pierre-Alain Giraud and Stéphane Foenkinos, this augmented reality work, presented at the PHI Centre from February 7 to April 28, 2024, is a tribute to Claudette Colvin, but also to Tania de Montaigne: "Behind her work as a novelist and author, she is a tireless defender of equal opportunities and equal rights. And she takes this text, this story, to schools, prisons and social centres. She contributes her time and energy, and that's an integral part of who she is.”

They see the documentary format as a way of making a contribution to the issues facing society, by highlighting the stories of real people, ordinary heroes and heroines. In this sense, they see new technology as a real goldmine for documentary and non-fiction works.


PHI Antenne Balado Noire Taniaet Will IMG3
Photo: Adil Boukind



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