Speak Up

Thursday, April 12, 2018 - 11:45
Thursday, April 12, 2018 - 13:20
Friday, April 13, 2018 - 15:30
Vancity Theatre
1181 Seymour Street
$10 adult; $7 child, youth, senior; $5 each for groups of 10 or more
Stéphane de Freitas, Ladj Ly

In French with English subtitles


It is purely the luck of the draw to be born with the gifts of a natural orator. Or is it? Though not everyone possesses the talents to express themselves with eloquence, such abilities can be taught. And with those abilities comes the kind of influence and power that a writer could only dream of. Yet there is no value in the art of persuasion if one does not understand what one is saying. Each year, over the course of six dedicated weeks, students from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines prepare for a showdown in the suburbs of Paris, ramping up to a rousing denouement: the prestigious Eloquentia tournament. The winner will hold the title of ‘Best Public Speaker’.

The program is not simply about overcoming a fear to speak in public, it’s about using everything in one’s arsenal to astound the world with your perspective. Studious coaches, professional public speakers, poets, and educators build student confidence through a number of exercises designed to help them finesse the art of speech — arguably a dying art, in these reductive sound-bite times. In Speak Up the students of Saint-Denis are ignited at their core, and facile modes of expression are shed like an old skin. Arguing with spoken word is the touchstone of democratic discourse. It is universal. At its finest, a well-formulated position can deconstruct problematic notions within our social fabric, and enable a deeper understanding of humanity. The faculty of Saint-Denis believe every person deserves the opportunity to learn to use speech as a defensive weapon. “Most of [these students] have never spoken in public, but by the time the film is over, they could give Charles de Gaulle a run for his money.” -Hollywood Reporter

Speak Up premiered at the Raindance Film Festival in the UK, and showed in the New York Film Film Festival’s prestigious program at the Film Society of Lincoln Centre. R2R is pleased to present the Canadian Premiere of this remarkable documentary. 

Themes: politics, poverty, family, feminism, freedom of speech

Classification: PG

Note: This film screens as part of the  program for grades 8-12.

In partnership with:





Stéphane de Freitas is first an artist and second a director. His work deals notably with the idea of “bringing opposites together”. Brought up in a family of Portuguese origin in Seine-Saint-Denis he experienced a dramatic change of circumstances as a teenager, ending up in Paris’ chic western neighborhoods. Unaware of the social norms of his new surroundings, his suburban way of speaking proved a hurdle he had to clear before finding acceptance. Stéphane de Freitas is the founder of La Coopérative Indigo, a non-profit organization which aims to rebuild social bonds and get people from different social backgrounds to spend more time together. It was this association that started up the Eloquentia programs in 2012 in Seine-Saint-Denis, which have since spread to various other universities throughout France, including Grenoble, Limoges and Nanterre. His intention in making Speak Up was to spotlight suburban youth, their humanity, their intelligence, and the many different paths of young people we rarely hear or see in mainstream press or on prime-time TV.