Telling dramatic stories which bring crucial social and political issues to the attention of the public was Magnus Isacsson’s objective as a documentary filmmaker. In the last fifteen years of his life he specialized in feature length “process films” following conflictual situations over long periods of time.
His final film, My Real Life (2012) followed four young at-risk men from Montreal’s rough North end as they emerge into more hopeful lives as young adults. The film won the award for Best Canadian Documentary at the Rencontres internationals du documentaire de Montréal (RIDM). Power (1996) told the five-year story of how the Cree 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. The Choir Boys (1999) about Montreal’s choir of homeless men 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 (2002) is a multi-faceted view of the politics of protest which the Globe and Mail called “remarkable…riveting”. Isacsson also co-directed Pressure Point (1999) a film on the same theme that received the Quebec Film Critics award for Best Documentary in 2000. Maxime, McDuff and McDo his second film on attempts to unionize McDonald’s restaurants was nominated for three Gémeaux awards. Isacsson’s more recent films are The Battle of Rabaska (with Martin Duckworth, 2008) and Art in Action (2009) which received the Prix Gémeaux for Best Portrait or Biography Documentary in 2011.
In 2004, Isacsson received the Prix Lumières from the Association des Réalisateurs et Réalisatrices du Québec (ARRQ) which made him a member emeritus in 2012. He published a blog entitled Documentary Field Notes and Flashpoints.
After studying political science at the Universities of Stockholm and Montreal, Isacsson started his career as a radio producer for Swedish Broadcasting and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) from 1972 to 1980. From 1980 to 1986 he directed a wide range of current affairs reports and investigative stories for the English and French television networks of the CBC, for programs such as Le Point, Contrechamp and The Fifth Estate.
Isacsson taught audiovisual production at l’INIS, the Quebec film school, and at several universities, including Whitman College in Washington State, the University of Montreal and Concordia University. In the mid-eighties he taught video production in Zimbabwe and South Africa for Montreal-based Vidéo Tiers Monde. 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 ARRQ, and of SARTEC. He is a former vice-president of the Observatoire du documentaire.
Magnus Isacsson was born in Sweden in 1948. He immigrated to Canada in 1970 and became a Canadian citizen in 1978. Aside from his native Swedish, he became fluent in English and French. Magnus passed away in August 2012, read more here. He lived the last 25 years with documentary filmmaker Jocelyne Clarke and had two daughters, Anna and Béthièle.