Born in Montreal in 1961, Jeanne Crépeau took classes in the Humanities (History and Anthropology), spent a year backpacking, returned to school to study Visual Arts, dropped out again, applied unsuccessfully to the Set & Costume Design program at the National Theatre School, got involved with various environmental groups, and hosted and directed shows on Radio Centreville, before enrolling in the Communications Program at the Université du Québec à Montréal, and starting to make films. Before she had even received her diploma, she was one of 25 trainees selected by the directors at the National Film Board’s Studio D to learn the craft or filmmaking.
While studying, she co-wrote the soundtrack of François Girard’s first short film and co-directed her own first short film L’usure [By Attrition] in 1986 – the first-ever lesbian Western, which won several awards, including one for actress Marie-Hélène Montpetit. In 1988, Isabelle Guilbeault won an award for her performance in Gerçure [A Touch of Flu]. The same year, Crépeau brought together filmmakers from different milieus and, along with Manon Briand and Benoît Pilon, founded a film production association, Les films de l’autre. In 1989, while finishing Le film de Justine [Justine’s Film], she was invited to spend 18 months at Norman Jewison’s newly established Canadian Center for Advanced Films Studies in Toronto, where she made Close Relations. In 1990, she wrote and shot La tranchée for the series Fictions 16/26, which was co-produced by Radio-Québec. She later took an acting/directing workshop with Michel Brault and received a grant to write her first feature-length film. In 1992, in collaboration with the Brouhaha Dance troupe, she made Claire et l’obscurité, a film that denounces violence against women. In 1993, Crépeau left Les films de l’autre and created her own production company: boxfilm. After having participated in a collective exhibition at Powerhouse Gallery in 1990, Crépeau exhibited a video installation at OBORO in 1994, which used a card game as a pretext to address mother and daughter relationships. The single-channel version would become Bridge, which came out later the same year. In 1996, she won the NFB’s Cinéaste recherché du Studio d’animation française competition and would go on to make La Solitude de Monsieur Turgeon [Lonesome Monsieur Turgeon], which premiered at Cannes in 2001.
After years spent securing the financing, her first feature-length film, Revoir Julie [Julie and Me], was released in 1998. Thanks to new networking possibilities offered by email, the film was shown at some 30 LGBT festivals, including in South Africa, and received numerous awards. Since 2000, Crépeau has spent more time between France and Québec for personal reasons. It was during one of her visits, in 2002, that she shot Lettre à Robert Daudelin – modestly following the model of Lettre à Freddy Buache [A Letter to Freddy Buache] by Godard – which was screened during an evening dedicated to the director of the Cinémathèque québécoise on the occasion of his retirement. The following autumn, Crépeau embarked upon a Master’s degree in cinema at La Sorbonne Nouvelle and during this period in Paris she directed and produced a short film each month, Amalgames, screened during the first part of the program at the Cinémathèque québécoise. Upon her return, she shot La Beauté du geste, a behind-the-scenes look at this cultural institution as part of its 40th anniversary celebrations.
In 2007, Crépeau’s time in Paris resulted in two feature-length films: Jouer Ponette [Playing Ponette], a documentary essay about the film by Jacques Doillon and Suivre Catherine [Following Catherine], a fictional film journal of her year at the university.
In 2008, there was a crisis. The distributor who had made a verbal commitment to distribute Crépeau’s latest feature-length film pulled out – a real catastrophe since shooting was about to begin. After a chaotic and complicated production, and without a distributor, La fille de Montréal [A Montreal Girl] was quietly released in January 2010 during the coldest week of the Montreal winter. This is Crépeau’s most recent production.
Since 2015, Crépeau has been living in France with the person with whom she has shared her life for 15 years and working on an educational project for the Cinémathèque française. She now teaches at the Institut national de l’audiovisuel.
Films currently in production include a short animation film, a documentary essay, and a political fictional screenplay.