For example his 1996 film, Power, told the five-year story of
how the Cree indians defeated Hydro-Québec's Great Whale
megaproject. The film received the award for best documentary at the
Paris International Environmental Film Festival in 1997 and the Grand
Prize of the Lausanne festival in 1999. In that year, 1999, he released The Choir Boys about Montreal's choir of homeless men, which was nominated for several
major Canadian awards and received the Golden Conch at the Mumbai
International festival in 2000. The feature length View from the Summit is a multi-faceted view of the politics of protest, which the
Globe and Mail called "remarkable...riveting". Isacsson also co-directed
Pressure Point, a film on the same theme
that received the Quebec Film Critics award for Best Documentary in
Maxime, McDuff and McDo, his second film on attempts
to unionize McDonald's restaurants, was nominated for three
Gémeaux awards. One of his more recent films, 2009's Art in Action, received the Prix Gémeaux for best
portrait or biography in 2011.
Born in Sweden in 1948, Isacsson immigrated to
Canada in 1970 and became a Canadian citizen in 1978. He had studied political science at the University of Stockholm and continued those studies in
Montreal. He starting his working life as a radio producer for Swedish
Broadcasting and then the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation from 1972 to
1980. From 1980 to 1986 he directed numerous current affairs reports
and investigative stories for the English and French television
Le Point, Contrechamp and The Fifth Estate.
In addition to his work as a director, Isacsson also taught audiovisual production at l’INIS, the Quebec film
school, and at several universities, including Whitman College in
Washington State, the Université de Montréal and Concordia. In the
mid-eighties he taught video production in Zimbabwe and South
Africa for Montreal-based Vidéo Tiers Monde (Third World Video). He
directed an instructional tape on video production, which received the
award for best audiovisual production from the Association for
Audiovisual Teaching Techniques in 1991. He was a member and former
co-chair of the Documentary Association of Canada (DOC), a member
of the Association des Réalisateurs et Réalisatrices du Québec (ARRQ),
and of SARTEC. He was a former vice-president of the Observatoire du
Over his 22-year career as a documentary film director, Isacsson collaborated with the NFB on a number of productions. "Magnus’s death is a great loss to the entire Quebec documentary film community," said Tom Perlmutter, NFB Chairperson and Government Film Commissioner. "Magnus was so dedicated, so passionate about what he did. His greatest wish would be for us to continue his legacy in socially relevant documentary filmmaking and his commitment to social justice." His most recent NFB work was The Battle of Rabaska: Chronicle of an Environmental Conflict, co-directed with long-time friend Martin Duckworth, documenting a campaign by citizen activists against a methane tanker terminal in their community.
Dedicated and prolific, Isacsson continued to work throughout his illness. Through enormous effort and devotion, he was successful in completing his film Ma vie réelle, about troubled youths in Montreal North, prior to his death. Produced by Jeannine Gagné for Amazone Film, Ma vie réelle will premiere this coming fall. His latest film Granny Power, about an activist movement led by senior citizens and produced by Magnus’s wife and frequent collaborator Jocelyne Clarke, is still in production.
Also see: Magnus Isacsson's filmography.