Michka Saäl

Far From Where?

1989, fiction, 24 minutes, French with english subtitles

Remastered in 2018 with support of Michel Giroux and ACIC (National Film Board of canada)

Prix Normande-Juneau in 1989 for Best Short Film “for the perfect execution of its ideas and direction, the remarkable density of its images and words, for the unparalleled sensitivity of its soundtrack, and for its gaze which transcends the individual to become universal.”

Credits        Reviews        Screenings Backstory



An attempt to represent feelings of exile through cinema, the gap between images of cold and snow in a frozen landscape and the sounds coming from a hot country far from…. where?




Written and directed by Michka Saäl

Image: Michel Lamothe

Sound: Catherine Van Der Donckt, Claude Beaugrand, Justine Pimlott

Editor: Fernand Bélanger

Music: Abdullah Ibrahim

Production: Les Productions du Lundi Matin

With Nadine Ltaif and Nathalie Gagnon, Elisabeth St-Louis, Félix Daudelin and the voice of Michka Saäl

Far from Where.michka and michel.jpg


Photo: Alain Chagnon

Photo: Alain Chagnon

A work that enlarges our field of vision

Far from Where? is a film offered consciously to its adopted country. The images come from here, but without a sense of belonging…

Photo: Alain Chagnon

Photo: Alain Chagnon

“The film works to reconstruct the sensation of displacement through the text and the juxtaposed images that provide a subtle echo. The filmmaker is constantly present through a voiceover that delivers a superb text — one could almost say a tale from the Middle East. It retraces her childhood, her country, observing the gaps between her countries of origin and adoption. There is no attempt to ‘make sense’ of her exile. Emotion flows through the choice of images that create feeling as the words spur forth…From the heart of her exile, Michka Saäl has produced a work that enlarges our field of vision….”

Michel Beauchamp, 24 Images

Photo: Alain Chagnon

Photo: Alain Chagnon

The voice of a filmmaker

“Voices from the past are superimposed on images and sounds of Quebec: the heat of midday under a Mediterranean sun, the games of a young girl with a Bedouin boy, and an attempt to run away that allows the young girl to discover her city looks onto the sea…

 “Saäl manages to walk a fine line throughout the film, thanks to the rigorous framing and editing of the images, and above all, thanks to a serious text with real content. From the shock produced by the intimacy of the narrator against the Quebec landscape, Far from Where? generates sincerity, which Saal delivers in a trembling voice.  

It’s a voice that comes from afar and that speaks with the short and simple sentences of childhood. A voice of profound turmoil that never lifts the veil of modesty. If it’s gentle to the ear, this voice, it’s because it’s the voice of a filmmaker.”

Marcel Jean, Le Devoir, June 7, 1989




Hot Docs Redux, Toronto


Festivals in Toronto, Belfort, Figueira da Foz

TV 5, France



Rendez-vous Québec Cinéma



Photo: Alain Chagnon

Photo: Alain Chagnon

What passes in the mind

 "What interests me in film is to explore the notion of time. To tell what passes in the mind rather than around the body. To show those moments where one becomes a stranger to oneself, to what's more or less defined and mapped out (in our lives), when one becomes aware of being, finally, a little lost, and with no other choice but to sit down and think."

Carte blanche to Michka Saäl

Ciné-bulles, Vol 9, No 4


“It’s not an autobiographical film in the sense that I did not experience the events described myself. But I did feed the film with enough true details, either observed or lived, that the characters were built as composites from different elements drawn from real people, the dialogue, the tics, the way of speaking, etc.”

Interview with Gérard Boulad, World Film Festival of Montreal, The Daily, 29 august 1989


Finding her voice

“The decision to do the voiceover myself was both economic and practical because it was hard to find an actress with the right accent. Catherine Van Der Donckt psychoanalyzed my voice. Locked into her studio with her Nagra sound system, she made me turn over my scenario and my texts, and speak to her, directly… And Claude Beaugrand left us alone on the carpet of her salon to play in her box of treasures.”

Carte blanche to Michka Saäl

Ciné-bulles, Vol 9, No 4, 1989


Photo: Marc-Antoine Daudelin

Photo: Marc-Antoine Daudelin

Less exiled

“The fact that I won the best short at the Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois was, for me, something precious: the moment where I told myself, “Hey, I belong, just a little, to this family.’”

Carte blanche to Michka Saäl

Ciné-bulles, Vol 9, No 4, 1989


loin d'ou.5.jpg

Cinema lessons after school

“Fernand Bélanger wanted to edit Far from Where?, but on one condition: he would not cut one frame unless I was there, with him, at the editing table. Result: I learned more about editing in my months with him than in five years at university. And not only in editing, but also how to construct images, how to build a narrative without losing the interior vision, how to live without dying from emotions.”

Carte blanche to Michka Saäl

Ciné-bulles, Vol 9, No 4, 1989


An elsewhere presence

“Nadine Ltaif, my sister-friend, who is a poet, accepted to lend her images to the film, her ‘elsewhere’ presence, her grace and labyrinthine gaze.”

Carte blanche à Michka Saäl

Ciné-bulles, Vol 9, No 4, 1989


Michka told me it’s the story of a young woman who has just arrived in Quebec. Easy, I thought. I did not have to speak, simply be myself. I was quite naïve back then. I had no idea that, in doing almost nothing, the camera would film my inner self. I asked Michka, does it show that I’m Arab? No, she said, you look Swedish…

Nadine Ltaif, actress, 2018