Mars and April

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Mars et Avril
Mars et Avril Official poster.jpg
Official poster of the movie Mars et Avril
Directed by Martin Villeneuve
Produced by Martin Villeneuve
Anne-Marie Gélinas
Benoît Beaulieu
Written by Martin Villeneuve
Based on Mars et Avril 
by Martin Villeneuve
Starring Jacques Languirand
Caroline Dhavernas
Paul Ahmarani
Robert Lepage
Music by Benoît Charest
Cinematography Benoît Beaulieu
Edited by Mathieu Demers
Mars et Avril Inc.
Les Productions du 8e Art
Item 7
Distributed by Alliance Vivafilm (Canada)
Gaiam (United States)
Release dates
  • 2 July 2012 (2012-07-02) (Karlovy Vary International Film Festival)
Running time
90 minutes
Country Canada
Language French (English subtitled)
Budget $2,300,000

Mars et Avril (aka Mars & Avril or Mars and April,[1] — "Mars" here referring to planet Mars, and "Avril/April" to the lead female character)[2] is a Canadian science fiction film starring Jacques Languirand, Caroline Dhavernas, Paul Ahmarani and Robert Lepage. The feature film, based on the graphic novels of the same name published by Sid Lee & la Pastèque,[3] is written, produced and directed by Martin Villeneuve.[4]

Shot on a very tight budget and with abundant use of green screen, Villeneuve's feature film debut has a significant amount of visual effects. Belgian comic book artist François Schuiten (Les Cités Obscures) is the production designer, former ILM Senior Compositor Carlos Monzon (Avatar, Transformers, Star Trek) worked as VFX supervisor, and Oscar-nominated Benoît Charest (Les Triplettes de Belleville) composed the original score.[2] The film was financed by Telefilm Canada, SODEC, Les Productions du 8e Art and the Harold Greenberg Fund, and is distributed in Canada by Alliance Vivafilm and in the United States by Gaiam. The official trailer on YouTube was released in Quebec theaters and on Alliance Vivafilm's YouTube channel on December 21, 2011. The World premiere took place on July 2, 2012, at the 47th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Czech Republic (the film was selected in the section “Another View” for its unique artistic approach in both form and content).[5] Since then, the film has been screened in many other major cinema events around the globe (see the FESTIVALS section below).


Mars et Avril got its theatrical release in Quebec on October 12, 2012,[6][7] and reviews were generally positive.[8][9][10][11] The film received four nominations at the 2013 Canadian Screen Awards: achievement in music, achievement in overall sound, best adapted screenplay and achievement in visual effects,[12] and five nominations at the 2013 Jutra Awards.[13]

The DVD of the film[14] as well as the digital version on iTunes[15] were released in Canada through Alliance Vivafilm on March 19, 2013, to critical acclaim,[16][17] along with Benoît Charest's original soundtrack[18] and the trailer music composed by Ramachandra Borcar.[19] On October 22, 2013, Benoît Charest won the Félix in the category Album of the year – original soundtrack at the ADISQ Gala.[20] For the occasion, a limited edition of 300 vinyl records of the soundtrack was released,[21] as a nod to the retro-futuristic look of the film.

In September 2013, Mars et Avril was sold to the U.S. and is now available on U.S. iTunes and on GaiamTV.[22][23] The film is also available on iTunes in the UK, and all across Francophone Europe. Other major digital platforms will follow, starting in January 2014.[24]

Martin Villeneuve's TED Talk[edit]

On February 27, 2013, Martin Villeneuve gave a TED Talk[25] about Mars et Avril at TED2013,[26][27] thereby becoming the very first French Canadian speaker invited to this prestigious event that took place in Long Beach, California.[28] Prior to his talk, the opening sequence of the film was shown, as well as a three minutes overview of the steps leading from the green screen to the final images.[29][30] Martin Villeneuve's talk, “How I made an impossible film,” was released on on June 7, 2013, and a month later was added to TED's movie magic list, featuring famed directors such as James Cameron and J.J. Abrams.[31] Since then, Mars et Avril is being referred to as the “Impossible Film”.[32]


Adapted from two acclaimed graphic novels, Mars et Avril is set in a futuristic Montreal, where humanity is about to set foot on Mars. Jacob Obus (Jacques Languirand), a charismatic musician, takes pride in slowing down time by playing instruments inspired by women’s bodies, designed by his friend, Arthur (Paul Ahmarani). A love triangle develops when Jacob and Arthur both fall in love with Avril (Caroline Dhavernas), a young photographer. Enter Eugène Spaak (Robert Lepage), inventor, cosmologist and Arthur’s father, who unveils a new theory about man’s desire to reach Mars and helps Jacob find the true meaning of life and love.[33]


  • Jacques Languirand ... Jacob Obus
  • Caroline Dhavernas ... Avril
  • Paul Ahmarani ... Arthur
  • Robert Lepage ... Eugène Spaak (head)
  • Jean Asselin ... Eugène Spaak (body) / Serveur automate
  • Stéphane Demers ... Bernard Brel
  • Jean Marchand ... Pneumatologue
  • Kathleen Fortin ... Modèle d'Arthur
  • Marcel Sabourin ... Capucin
  • André Montmorency ... Pierrot
  • Gabriel Gascon ... Arlequin
  • Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais ... Marsonaute 1
  • Pierre Leblanc ... Marsonaute 2
  • Richard Robitaille ... Marsonaute 3
  • Khanh Hua ... Serveur automate
  • Michèle Deslauriers ... Standardiste (voice)
  • Denis Gravereaux ... Cosmologue 1
  • Charles Papasoff ... Cosmologue 2
  • Émilie Blake ... Secrétaire du Pneumatologue

Production design[edit]

Mars et Avril benefits from the collaboration of Belgian comic book artist François Schuiten, best known for drawing the series Les Cités Obscures published by Casterman, who worked on the film as production designer.[34]

Martin Villeneuve’s influences came primarily from comic books, especially that of François Schuiten and his series Les Cités Obscures, whom he approached as production designer in 2007. He wanted the source of his inspiration to play a direct role in the creation of the film rather than try to mimic his style.[35] In pre-production, Schuiten made some sketches of the sets and, in post-production, he oversaw the visual coherence of the whole film while acting as art direction consultant.[36] Since the film was to be shot almost entirely on green screen, in only 25 days and on a very tight budget of 2.3 million CAD, the key to making it work laid in preparation. The 1200 shots were hand-drawn as storyboards and then edited with the dialogues in a detailed, two-hour-long animatic that mapped out every detail before shooting.[37] Villeneuve went to Brussels in May 2008 to work with Schuiten, then Schuiten came to Montreal twice to follow up: in September 2008 and December 2011. Throughout filming and post-production, the two men touch-based as often as they could through Skype.[38]

One of the main brainstorming sessions between Villeneuve and Schuiten is available as the audio commentary on the DVD of the film.


In 2005, Robert Lepage optioned the rights to Martin Villeneuve's Mars et Avril graphic novels (volumes 1 and 2) through his Quebec city-based motion picture company, Films Ex æquo (who had already produced The Far Side of the Moon in 2003), with the intent of adapting them into a science fiction feature film. While the author of the books was to write the script, Lepage was attached to the project as actor and producer.[39]

A year later, Lepage shut down Films Ex æquo, deciding at the time that he would not direct any more films in Canada.[40] Nevertheless, he strongly encouraged Mars et Avril's writer to take the director's chair.[41] Martin Villeneuve took over the project, while Lepage remained involved as actor and creative producer.[4]

In 2007, Villeneuve contacted the famous Belgian comic book artist François Schuiten (Les Cités Obscures), who accepted to work on the film as production designer. Schuiten had already worked on such films as Toto le Héros, The Golden Compass and Mr. Nobody.[34] The young filmmaker was also able to convince Guy Laliberté, founder of Cirque du Soleil, to finance the creation of the imaginary musical instruments to be used by the actors on set. In 2008, SODEC, Telefilm Canada, The Harold Greenberg Fund and Alliance Vivafilm decided to finance the production. Due to the film's significant amount of visual effects, an extensive year of pre-production was necessary. Also, in order to work around Robert Lepage's extremely tight schedule, principal photography took place in Montreal in two segments; the first was in September 2008, and the second was in April 2009.[42] Since Lepage only had a few days available for filming, Villeneuve turned his character into a hologram and had another actor wearing a green hood stand in for his scenes during principal photography.[27] The film was almost entirely shot on green screen, in 25 days, using the RED digital camera.[43]

Most of the actors who appeared in the graphic novels reprised their roles in the film, with the exception of Marie-Josée Croze (who portrayed the lead female character in the books), due to a schedule conflict. Caroline Dhavernas (Passchendaele, Wonderfalls) was then hired to play the part of AVRIL, opposite Jacques Languirand (JACOB OBUS), Robert Lepage (EUGÈNE SPAAK) and Paul Ahmarani (ARTHUR SPAAK). From the original cast of the books, Stéphane Demers also reprised the role of BERNARD BREL.[44]

Robert Lepage plays a cosmologist whose research into virtual technologies extends to bold experiments on himself. His head is actually a hologram, with all of his ideas, memories and thoughts stored electronically. Six cameras were trained on Lepage's head while another actor portrayed the cosmologist's body.[45][46][47]

By the end of 2009, the editing of a first cut was assembled. In 2010, Martin Villeneuve searched for new investments in order to complete the 550 VFX shots involved in the film.[48] In early 2011, Anne-Marie Gélinas and Benoît Beaulieu joined Villeneuve as producers.[49] Telefilm Canada and Alliance Vivafilm both accepted to raise their initial investment, and so did Robert Lepage and Lynda Beaulieu though their new Quebec city-based motion picture company, Les Productions du 8e Art. At this point, Pierre Even (C.R.A.Z.Y.) and Marie-Claude Poulin from Item 7 also joined the team as executive producers.[50]

In March 2011, a re-shoot took place at Lepage's request. An additional scene involving Languirand and Dhavernas was shot, and the final cut of the film was completed during the summer of the same year.[51] Montreal-based post-production company Vision Globale (under the supervision of former ILM Senior Compositor Carlos Monzon) then started the visual effects and sound design. Also, Oscar-nominated Benoît Charest (Les Triplettes de Belleville) was tasked with scoring the music.[52]

The official trailer was released in Quebec theaters and on Alliance Vivafilm's YouTube channel on December 21, 2011.[53] The official poster, designed by François Schuiten, was revealed online on March 11, 2012, once the film was entirely completed.[54] The World premiere took place on July 2, 2012, at the 47th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Czech Republic (the film was selected in the section “Another View” for its unique artistic approach in both form and content).[5] The movie was well received by the public[55] and the reviews were positive.[2][56] The first in a series of production videos on YouTube unveiling the film's creation has been released online on August 16, 2012, along with the official website created by the Sid Lee agency.[57] A 22-minute “Making Of” was aired on ARTV in October 2012 in order to promote the release of the film, and is now available in French on YouTube and with English subtitles on YouTube.[58]

Mars et Avril was released in Quebec on October 12, 2012[6][7] and reviews were generally positive.[8][9][10][11]

Other facts about the film[edit]

  • Marie-Josée Croze was originally cast as Avril but left the project due to scheduling conflicts. She was the original Avril in the Mars et Avril graphic novels by Martin Villeneuve,[59] and was replaced by Caroline Dhavernas in the movie adaptation. Both Croze and Dhavernas were Villeneuve’s roommates during his college years.[48]
  • Jacques Languirand, who was nearly 80 years old when the film was shot, wore an ear-piece so that his wife, Nicole Dumais, could feed him his lines off set. It was the radio host’s first leading role in a feature film.[60]
  • The opening of the film is based on German astronomer Johannes Kepler’s cosmological model from the 17th century, Harmonices Mundi, in which the harmony of the universe is determined by the motion of celestial bodies. Benoît Charest also composed the score according to this theory.[61]
  • Martin Villeneuve couldn’t afford to have the imaginary musical instruments built, so he went to Cirque du Soleil CEO Guy Laliberté and convinced him to buy them before they were even made.[59] When Laliberté saw Villeneuve’s TED Talk on June 7, 2013, he offered the young filmmaker the “Gravophone” which can be seen in the talk.[62]
  • Upon his performance on the stage of the Liquid Pub, the band of old musicians – formed by actors Jacques Languirand, Marcel Sabourin, André Montmorency and Gabriel Gascon, genuine cultural icons of Quebec – received a standing ovation that lasted several minutes from the 50 extras present during the shooting. The first assistant director even had to stop the applause so as not to be behind schedule.[62]
  • A setting of Fever in Urbicand (Schuiten & Peeters, Casterman, 1985), cult album in Les Cités Obscures series, appears in the movie. As a matter of fact, François Schuiten agreed to have a 3D model made out of his futuristic auditorium, for a scene taking place inside the Temple of Cosmologists. Martin Villeneuve had this image in mind when writing his books, a few years before Schuiten joined the team. Before the shooting, even the extras were chosen to look like the characters in the comic book.[54]
  • The relation between the musical instrument and the Martian topography, explained during Eugène Spaak’s conference, is a real discovery that Martin Villeneuve made while writing his books.[63]
  • Since Robert Lepage only had a few days available for filming, an avant-garde 3D capturing technique was used to integrate him virtually into his scenes as a hologram. Six cameras were trained on Lepage’s head while a mime, Jean Asselin, portrayed the body.[64][65]
  • Jean Asselin, the mime who performs Eugène Spaak’s body, had to wear a green hood for the whole duration of the shoot. He also plays the robot waiter of the Liquid Pub and of The Greenhouse Effect nightclub, where you get to see his face.[66]
  • Aboard the Orient Express, Jacob Obus and Eugène Spaak are respectively ordering an “electric eel” and a “flying fish”. This scene was shot on April 1, 2009 and, in volume 2 of the graphic novel, Eugène’s order was actually the “April’s fool special”.[67]
  • The “electric eel” ordered by Jacob Obus aboard the Orient Express was a false latex eel. However, believing that it was real, the property master placed it in a cooler prior to the shooting of the scene.[63]
  • The space module that enters the Martian atmosphere was modeled after Jacob Obus’ microphone that can be seen on the stage of the Liquid Pub.[63]
  • The Martian backgrounds were taken by photographer Denis McCready in the Mojave Desert using a panoramic film camera. The exact location is near Trona Pinnacles where several sci-fi movies and TV series were filmed including Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, The Gate II, Lost in Space and Planet of the Apes.[62]
  • The scene where Jacob and Arthur are leaving for Mars is inspired by one of Martin Villeneuve’s childhood memories: when he was 4 or 5 years old, his older brothers put him in a box and made him believe that he made a space travel on his way to Mars.[68]
  • In March 2011, exactly two years after principal photography, a re-shoot involving Jacques Languirand and Caroline Dhavernas took place at Robert Lepage’s request. The scene in which Jacob and Avril are making love was shot in Languirand’s actual bedroom. There’s a 48 years age gap in between the two lovers.[69]
  • Because some extras were missing in a few shots, VFX artists at Vision Globale dressed in the futuristic fashion of the film to celebrate Halloween in 2011, and were shot on green screen.[70]
  • Michèle Deslauriers, who’s the actual voice of the Montreal Transportation Service which can be heard in the metro, provided the Montreal Teleportation Service’s voice in the film. Michèle Deslauriers is also Caroline Dhavernas’ mother.[10]
  • Pneumatology is not a science invented for the film. It is the study of spiritual beings and phenomena, especially the interactions between humans and God. Pneuma (πνεῦμα) is Greek for "breath", which metaphorically describes a non-material being or influence.[62]


  • September 27, 2014 (Closing gala): Festival du Film Canadien de Dieppe, France.[71]
  • March 22, 2014: FICG Festival Internacional de Cine en Guadalajara, Mexico.[72]
  • September 29, 2013: Lund Fantastisk Film Festival, Sweden.[73]
  • September 22, 2013: UTOPIA — Tel-Aviv International Festival of Fantastic Film, Israel.[74]
  • December 6, 2012 (Opening film): Monsters and Martians International Film Festival, Toronto, Canada.[86]


  1. ^ Alternative titles on Mars et Avril IMDb page
  2. ^ a b c Mars and April // Mars & Avril, review from Variety, July 16, 2012
  3. ^ Exclusive look at Canadian scifi film MARS ET AVRIL a graphic novel adaptation, article from Quiet Earth, April 4, 2011
  4. ^ a b Denis Villeneuve's brother Martin imagines future Montreal with 'Mars et Avril', article from Canadian Press, October 26, 2011
  5. ^ a b Stunning Canadian scifi flick MARS ET AVRIL premiering at Karlovy Vary, article from Quiet Earth, June 16, 2012
  6. ^ a b MARS ET AVRIL - En salles dès le 12 octobre prochain !, news release from Alliance Vivafilm, August 23, 2012
  7. ^ a b Cinéma québécois - Floraison automnale, article from Le Devoir, August 25, 2012
  8. ^ a b Mars et Avril, review from, February 11, 2013
  9. ^ a b Amours futuristes et émois métaphysiques, review from Le Devoir, October 13, 2012
  10. ^ a b c Hitchhike a ride on Martin Villeneuve’s future, review from The Gazette, October 11, 2012
  11. ^ a b Une réussite visuelle, review from Le Journal de Montréal, October 10, 2012
  12. ^ Canadian Screen Awards nominees, article from The Gazette, January 15, 2013
  13. ^ La Soirée des Jutra 2013, news release from, January 31, 2013
  14. ^ Mars et Avril on Amazon Canada, March 19, 2013
  15. ^ Mars et Avril on iTunes Canada, March 19, 2013
  16. ^ Mars et Avril, Directed by Martin Villeneuve, DVD review from, March 21, 2013
  17. ^ MARS ET AVRIL - DVD, DVD review from, March 19, 2013
  18. ^ Mars et Avril soundtrack on iTunes Canada, March 19, 2013
  19. ^ Mars et Avril (Bande Annonce / Original Trailer Music), March 19, 2013
  20. ^ Le Gala de l'industrie | ADISQ: et les gagnants sont…, article from, October 22, 2013
  21. ^ Mars & Avril on Simone Records, October 22, 2013
  22. ^ Mars et Avril on GaiamTV, September 13, 2013
  23. ^ Spend the weekend watching the impossible (and beautiful) Mars & Avril, review from io9, December 6, 2013
  24. ^ A futuristic tale of fantasy and desire, BULB, December 2, 2013
  25. ^ “Martin Villeneuve: How I made an impossible film”, TED, June 7, 2013
  26. ^ 10 jaw-dropping images from the film “Mars et Avril,” and how the magic was created, article from the official TED Blog, June 7, 2013
  27. ^ a b A sci-fi film with a $2 million budget: Martin Villeneuve at TED2013, article from the official TED Blog, February 27, 2013
  28. ^ Quebec's first TED Talk, article from Cult Montreal, June 7, 2013
  29. ^ 3 Things You Need to Make an Impossible Movie, article from Film School Rejects, July 1, 2013
  30. ^ Making an Impossible Film: How Director Martin Villeneuve Brought His Sci-Fi Drama to Life, article from No Film School, June 14, 2013
  31. ^ 10 talks about the making of movie magic
  32. ^ Making the Impossible Film. Martin Villeneuve on MARS ET AVRIL, article from Quiet Earth, June 10, 2013
  33. ^ Official synopsis on EMAfilms' website
  34. ^ a b Voyage à travers le Montréal de demain, article from La Presse, December 8, 2011
  35. ^ François Schuiten: The Watchmaker of Dreams, Martin Villeneuve's BULB page, December 2, 2013
  36. ^ Entrevue exclusive avec Martin Villeneuve, Z-télé, October 11, 2012
  37. ^ Whistler Film Festival 2012 Interview - Mars & Avril director Martin Villeneuve,, December 1, 2012
  38. ^ Martin Villeneuve : ‘On ne peut pas penser un film comme un objet fini’, Cinephilia, April 6, 2013
  39. ^ Du papier glacé au grand écran, article from Le Devoir, October 17, 2006
  40. ^ Robert Lepage ferme sa boîte de production Ex aequo, article from Le Devoir, July 8, 2006
  41. ^ Amour et science-fiction, article from Le Journal de Montréal, October 6, 2012
  42. ^ Jacques Languirand dans l'espace, article from La Presse, April 29, 2011
  43. ^ Martin Villeneuve talks MARS ET AVRIL + English subbed trailer!, article from Quiet Earth, February 16, 2012
  44. ^ Mars et Avril : Une première bande-annonce, TVQC, December 26, 2011
  45. ^ Cronenberg's son Brandon, Villeneuve's brother Martin debut in 2012, article from Canadian Press, December 30, 2011
  46. ^ Robert Lepage : L'homme-orchestre, article from France-Amérique, October 2012
  47. ^ Robert Lepage projeté dans l'avenir, article from La Presse, October 11, 2012
  48. ^ a b Martin Villeneuve : l'ambition de la science-fiction, article from Le Nouvelliste, January 21, 2012
  49. ^ On me disait que c'était impossible, article from Qui fait Quoi, January 31, 2012
  50. ^ Mars et Avril sortira en 2012, article from Le Journal de Montréal, April 29, 2011
  51. ^ Mars et Avril en 2012, April 28, 2011
  52. ^ Le pari fou de Martin Villeneuve, article from Le Journal de Montréal, February 9, 2012
  53. ^ Breathtaking trailer for a movie about the only man who doesn’t want to go live on Mars, article from io9, December 22, 2011
  54. ^ a b Mars et Avril on Alta-Plana
  55. ^ Bel accueil pour Mars et Avril, article from Le Journal de Montréal, July 3, 2012
  56. ^ Mars and April, review from Screen Daily, July 13, 2012
  57. ^ Mars et Avril, une présence sur le web signée Sid Lee, article from Grenier aux nouvelles, August 29, 2012
  58. ^ Dazzling Other-Worldly New Sci-Fi Fantasy Film, Mars et Avril, The Impossible Movie Debuts Exclusively On Gaiam TV, article from, January 8, 2014
  59. ^ a b Mars et Avril leaps off the page, article from The Gazette, October 5, 2012
  60. ^ Visite sur le plateau de Mars et Avril, article on the Châtelaine blog, April 23, 2009
  61. ^ Science-fiction romantique, article from La Presse, October 6, 2012
  62. ^ a b c d Trivia & Fun facts about the film, BULB, December 2, 2013
  63. ^ a b c Trivia section on the Mars et Avril IMDb page
  64. ^ Trivia on Mars et Avril’s official Facebook page
  65. ^ Robert Lepage de retour au cinéma, article from Le Journal de Montréal, October 13, 2012
  66. ^ Trivia in Mars et Avril’s official "making of" on YouTube
  67. ^ Trivia on Mars et Avril’s official Facebook page
  68. ^ Mission accomplie Interview with Martin Villeneuve on Bouillant de culture, February 4, 2012
  69. ^ Mars et Avril selon Caroline Dhavernas, article from Cineplex Magazine, October 2012
  70. ^ Trivia on Mars et Avril’s official Facebook page
  71. ^ Mars et Avril page on the FFCD's official site
  72. ^ Mars et Avril page on the FICG's official site
  73. ^ Mars et Avril page on the LFFF's official site
  74. ^ Mars et Avril page on UTOPIA's official site
  75. ^ Mars et Avril page on the Vitesse Lumière's official site
  76. ^ Mars et Avril page on the NIFFF's official site
  77. ^ Mars et Avril page on the SFLFF's official site
  78. ^ Sci-Fi London 2013 Review: MARS ET AVRIL Deserves Greater Attention,, May 8, 2013
  79. ^ Mars et Avril page on the IFF's official site
  80. ^ Mars et Avril page on the BIFFF's official site
  81. ^ BIFFF 2013 – Mars & Avril : un souffle frais d’outre-Atlantique, Discordance, April 7, 2013
  82. ^ BIFFF 2013 – Critique de Mars & Avril, Sens critique, April 4, 2013
  83. ^ BIFFF 2013 – Mars & Avril : quand un film est bien plus que ça…, Cinephilia, April 4, 2013
  84. ^ Mars et Avril page on the RVCQ's official site
  85. ^ Mars et Avril page on the BSFFF's official site
  86. ^ List of selected films on the MMIFF's official site
  87. ^ Mars et Avril page on the WFF's official site
  88. ^ List of selected films on the MFF's official site
  89. ^ Mars et Avril page on the FNC's official site
  90. ^ Mars et Avril page on the MVFF's official site
  91. ^ Mars et Avril page on the CIFF's official site
  92. ^ Mars et Avril page on the CSIFF's official site
  93. ^ Mars et Avril page on the AFF's official site
  94. ^ Mars et Avril page on the KVIFF's official site

External links[edit]