A filmmaker armed with both intelligence and unique vision, French-Canadian writer/director Francois Girard managed to stake a claim for himself on the map of international cinema with only a handful of credits to his name. Girard, who was born in St-Felicien, Quebec, in 1963, started his career as a video artist, and eventually founded a company that became, in his words, his "film school" where he worked on experimental projects like architecture and dance films, as well as short dramas.
In 1990, Girard made his feature-film debut with Cargo, a French-language drama that was unable to get distribution outside of Quebec. Four years later, the director had his international breakthrough with Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, which he also co-wrote with Don McKellar. Its structure inspired by Gould's famous rendition of the "Goldberg Variations," the film was heralded as a visionary take on the life of the iconoclastic pianist that skillfully combined fact and fiction. It earned a score of Genies -- Canada's equivalent of the Oscar -- as well as particular acclaim for actor Colm Feore's title performance.
Girard, Feore, and McKellar again collaborated on The Red Violin (1998), Girard's most anticipated project to date. Starring Samuel L. Jackson as a violin expert who tries to establish the authenticity of the titular violin, the film, which spans 300 years and several narratives, manages to interweave music, drama, and linear fragmentation in the same manner as its predecessor. Although it received a mixed reception stateside, The Red Violin proved to be a great critical success in Canada, where it garnered eight Genies, including one for Best Achievement in Direction.
For his next project, Girard continued to use film as a means of exploring music. As the director of one segment of the six-part Canadian TV series Yo-Yo Ma: Inspired by Bach (1998), Girard captured the famed cellist in a performance of one of Johann Sebastian Bach's "Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello. The segment, entitled "The Sound of Carceri," examined the relationship between music and architecture by having Ma perform in a virtual prison based on the work of the architect Giovanni Battista Piranesi.