The Necessities of Life

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The Necessities of Life
The Necessities of Life.jpg
Directed by Benoît Pilon
Produced by René Chénier
Bernadette Payeur
Written by Bernard Émond
Starring Natar Ungalaaq
Music by Robert Marcel Lepage
Cinematography Michel La Veaux
Edited by Richard Comeau
Distributed by Seville Pictures
Release date
  • August 25, 2008 (2008-08-25) (Montréal World Film Festival)
  • August 28, 2008 (2008-08-28) (Canada)
Running time
102 minutes
Country Canada
Language French

The Necessities of Life (French: Ce qu'il faut pour vivre) is a 2008 Canadian drama film directed by Benoît Pilon and starring Natar Ungalaaq, Éveline Gélinas and Paul-André Brasseur. Told in both French and Inuktitut, the film is about an Inuit man who seeks treatment for tuberculosis in Quebec.

The film was shot in Iqaluit, Nunavut and Quebec City. It received positive reviews and won four Genie Awards, including Best Direction for Pilon, and the Special Grand Prize of the Jury of the Montreal World Film Festival.


In 1952, a tuberculosis epidemic is sweeping Northern Canada, causing numerous Inuit to seek treatment in Canadian cities. One Inuit man from Baffin Island, Tiivii, arrives at a sanatorium in Quebec City. He is treated by a French Canadian nurse, Carole. An orphaned boy, Kaki, also spends time with Tiivii in the institution.

Tiivii struggles with the language barrier, being unable to speak French. Kaki speaks both French and Inuktitut, and can translate conversations between Tiivii and Carole. However, the relationship becomes awkward when Tiivii, through Kaki, asks Carole for sex. Kaki had advised him it was a bad idea, citing his greater understanding of white people, though Tiivii felt he had a better understanding of women. Tiivii hopes to adopt Kaki.



When director Benoît Pilon read Bernard Émond's screenplay, he wanted Inuit actor Natar Ungalaaq as the lead role after seeing him in the 2001 Inuit film Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner.[1] Ungalaaq read the screenplay, and found the story personal as his real-life grandfather was diagnosed with tuberculosis during the historical epidemic in the 1950s. He did not disclose this story to the media until after the film was complete.[2] For his role as Kaki, Paul-André Brasseur, who lived in Montreal and spoke French, learned his Inuktitut lines with Ungalaaq's aid.[3]

The budget was $4 million.[4] Filming took place over nearly a year, in numerous locations.[1] Arctic scenes were shot around Iqaluit, Nunavut, and other scenes were shot in Quebec City.[3]


The film was first screened at the Montreal World Film Festival and at the Théâtre Maisonneuve on 25 August 2008. It opened in wider Quebec theatres on 29 August,[5] and was re-released in Montreal, Quebec City and Sherbrooke on 3 April 2009.[6]

After the film was submitted for consideration for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Entertainment One granted distribution rights for the United States to IFC Films in January 2009.[7] Entertainment One re-released the film in Toronto and Vancouver in April 2009.[8]


Critical reception[edit]

The film received critical acclaim.[8] In Canada, Marc-André Lussier of La Presse called the film beautiful and Natar Ungalaaq strong and charismatic.[9] The Montreal Gazette's Brendan Kelly called it "quite simply one of the best Quebecois films of the year."[5] Normand Provencher of La Presse described it as intelligent and beautiful.[10] In Maclean's, Brian D. Johnson assessed the film as "an immaculately crafted, deeply distressing drama," albeit difficult to watch given the subject matter. Johnson said Ungalaaq displayed grace, but at times was depicted as a noble savage.[11] Linda Barnard, writing for The Toronto Star, called it "A gentle yet moving story," and praised Ungalaaq.[12] Following Quebec's Jutra Awards, MP Marcel Proulx told the Canadian House of Commons in March 2009 that the film was a powerful statement on the distinct cultures of Nunavik and the rest of Quebec. MP Roger Pomerleau also publicly congratulated Ungalaaq.[13]

Writing for Variety, Dennis Harvey said "Necessities knows just how to eke maximum poignancy from its events without seeming to manipulate for tearjerking effect."[14] Dan Kois, writing for The Washington Post, called the film "thoughtful and, especially at its end, quite touching," but found it unoriginal and blandly directed.[15] In The Chicago Reader, Cliff Doerksen said parts of the film appear to be no better than a TV movie, "but the acting is understated and strong."[16]


Canada submitted the film for consideration for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, one of the rare Canadian selections to feature a substantial amount of Inuktitut, following Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner.[17] In January 2009, Academy members shortlisted the film among nine for the 81st Academy Awards,[18] but it was not nominated.[19] It received the most nominations at the 29th Genie Awards, with eight.[20]

Award Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Genie Awards Best Motion Picture Bernadette Payeur and René Chénier Nominated [21][22]
Best Direction Benoît Pilon Won
Best Original Screenplay Bernard Émond Won
Best Actor Natar Ungalaaq Won
Best Supporting Actress Éveline Gélinas Nominated
Best Original Score Robert Marcel Lepage Nominated
Best Editing Richard Comeau Won
Best Costume Design Francesca Chamberland Nominated
Jutra Awards Best Film Bernadette Payeur and René Chénier Won [23][24]
Best Direction Benoît Pilon Nominated
Best Screenplay Bernard Émond Won
Best Actor Natar Ungalaaq Won
Best Music Robert Marcel Lepage Nominated
Montreal World Film Festival Special Grand Prize of the Jury Benoît Pilon Won [25]
Most Popular Film of the Festival Benoît Pilon Won
Most Popular Canadian Feature Film Benoît Pilon Won
Toronto Film Critics Association Best Canadian Film Benoît Pilon Runner-up [26]
Vancouver Film Critics Circle Best Canadian Film Benoît Pilon Nominated [27]
Best Actor in a Canadian Film Natar Ungalaaq Won [28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Lapointe, Bruno (24 August 2008). "Le déracinement d'un inuit". Retrieved 31 December 2016. 
  2. ^ "Natar Ungalaaq harvests two best actor awards". The Nunatsiaq News. 10 April 2009. Retrieved 31 December 2016. 
  3. ^ a b George, Jane (11 September 2008). "Natar is not a great Inuit actor he's a great actor". The Nunatsiaq News. Retrieved 31 December 2016. 
  4. ^ Szklarski, Cassandra (20 January 2009). "Montreal filmmaker Benoit Pilon surprised by his Oscar shot". The Canadian Press. 
  5. ^ a b Kelly, Brendan (25 August 2008). "Ce qu'il faut pour vivre marks strong debut for Quebec in competition". The Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 31 December 2016. 
  6. ^ "Ce qu'il faut pour vivre de retour en salles". Le Devoir. 31 March 2009. Retrieved 31 December 2016. 
  7. ^ Vlessing, Etan (9 January 2009). "IFC grabs rights to 'Necessities of Life'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 31 December 2016. 
  8. ^ a b Strauss, Marise (7 April 2009). "Second life for Necessities". Playback. Retrieved 31 December 2016. 
  9. ^ Lussier, Marc-André (26 August 2008). "Ce qu'il faut pour vivre : belle entrée québécoise au FFM". La Presse. Retrieved 31 December 2016. 
  10. ^ Provencher, Normand (31 August 2008). "Ce qu'il faut pour vivre: la maladie de l'exil". La Presse. Retrieved 31 December 2016. 
  11. ^ Johnson, Brian D. (20 February 2009). "The Seductions of History". Maclean's. Retrieved 31 December 2016. 
  12. ^ Barnard, Linda (20 February 2009). "Ce qu'il faut pour vivre (The Necessities of Life): Moving story". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 31 December 2016. 
  13. ^ "40th PARLIAMENT, 2 e SESSION EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 036". Parliament of Canada. 30 March 2009. Retrieved 7 January 2017. 
  14. ^ Harvey, Dennis (26 August 2008). "Review: 'The Necessities of Life'". Variety. Retrieved 31 December 2016. 
  15. ^ Kois, Dan (18 June 2010). "Movie review: In 'The Necessities of Life,' an Inuit tale goes south". The Washington Post. Retrieved 31 December 2016. 
  16. ^ Doerksen, Cliff. "The Necessities of Life". The Chicago Reader. Retrieved 31 December 2016. 
  17. ^ Wong, Jessica (23 September 2016). "Xavier Dolan's It's Only the End of the World to be Canada's Oscar foreign-language film submission". CBC News. Retrieved 3 January 2017. 
  18. ^ "En bref - Ce qu'il faut pour vivre, présélectionné aux Oscars". Le Devoir. 14 January 2009. Retrieved 31 December 2016. 
  19. ^ "The Necessities of Life leads Genie nominations". CBC News. 10 February 2009. Retrieved 31 December 2016. 
  20. ^ Dixon, Guy (11 February 2009). "Genie Award voters anoint The Necessities". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 31 December 2016. 
  21. ^ Dumais, Manon (3 April 2009). "GÉNIE 2009 : ÇA INTÉRESSE-T-I QUELQU'UN ?". Voir. Retrieved 17 April 2017. 
  22. ^ "Passchendaele, Necessities of Life dominate Genie Awards". CBC News. 4 April 2009. Retrieved 31 December 2016. 
  23. ^ Lussier, Marc-André (28 March 2009). "Benoît Pilon: la belle lancée". La Presse. Retrieved 17 April 2017. 
  24. ^ The Canadian Press (30 March 2009). "'Ce qu'il faut pour vivre' wins big at Jutra awards". CTV News. Retrieved 31 December 2016. 
  25. ^ "AWARDS OF THE MONTREAL WORLD FILM FESTIVAL - 2008". Montreal World Film Festival. Retrieved 31 December 2016. 
  26. ^ "PAST AWARD WINNERS". Toronto Film Critics Association. Retrieved 16 April 2017. 
  27. ^ "Critics Circle gives Egoyan director nod". Times Colonist. 6 January 2009. 
  28. ^ Takeuchi, Craig (12 January 2009). "Milk and Quebec films lead Vancouver Film Critics Circle awards". The Georgia Straight. Retrieved 16 April 2017. 

External links[edit]