The Teenage Hospital: Beyond the Illness

Teen Hospital: Beyond Illness


It was in the world of music videos that Félix St-Jacques first evolved. He produced and directed nearly a hundred before participating in numerous web series. 

Félix St-Jacques

We owe him the variety show Les champions from the web, the recordings of The evening is (still) young, The Kevin Raphaël Show, Not live from Tokyo and the Vanlab youth series. It was also he who offered us the documentary miniseries on our national Tiger, Michel Bergeron, Bergie. He recently slipped into the hospital system by gaining the trust of young people who yearn for a normal life. With Teen Hospital, which he co-directs with Félix Trépanier, he gives voice to young people of great eloquence whose discourse goes far beyond their illness. A sensitive, lucid and luminous incursion around a delicate subject.

How were the eight young people selected?

The young people were proposed by the doctors according to their age, their condition, their ease in expressing themselves in front of the camera. Their condition is variable. Ema must have a cochlear implant. Justine has lived with a tracheo since birth. Charles-Édouard must undergo 70 chemo treatments. Their whole daily life revolves around their condition. From the moment the project started, no one took off their dashboard cover. It was not easy because in the circumstances, not everyone would want to wake up with a camera in their face. Every day has been a charm. We have created a bond of trust with everyone. My colleague Félix Trépanier did most of the portraits with the young people. They were given the right to express how they felt. These young people have a lot of resilience, but they have the right to kneel down. They don't have to be fighters all the time.

We know that there are a lot of unexpected things in health. It required the team to be flexible, I imagine?

We followed the young people for nearly three months in Montreal and Quebec. We knew we were going to follow them at a specific moment in their journey. We had to adjust often. When we accompanied Marceline to the hospital, she had to have a catheter inserted. Finally, she is told that she will have a kidney transplant. So as not to miss anything, we gave a GOPRO to her mother who was generous enough to film her, both when she was exhausted and when she was talking to her father before leaving for the operating room. It gives an insider side. That's true and fair.

How did you set the tone for the show?

It would have been easy to hit the tear button, but that was not what the young people deserved. We were just coming back to the truth. The challenge was to bond between them because, unlike the Red Bracelets, young people have no interaction in the hospital. They go in and come out with their mask. So we invited them to the camp. Then we paired them up to do activities. Justine and Mila's mothers are friends. Ema and Ann-Lise are the same age and therefore have the same concerns. It allowed to see them evolve in a normal way in an abnormal situation. They were also given iPads so that they could communicate with each other.

Do the nursing staff have a special bond with young people?

In some cases they have been followed since they were young, but everyone is really nice. The doctors accompany them closely. We didn't want to get too medical, but their explanations were necessary to fully understand their condition. They always set goals, are encouraging, find solutions or try to get answers. 

What objective did you set for yourself by presenting the daily lives of these young people?< /strong>

The first goal was to unravel the fiction, seen in The Red Wristbands, from the post-pandemic reality as the hospital system has changed significantly. It was to see how we live with the disease on a day-to-day basis. Any parent would want to take the place of their child to let them live their youth. For the young people we met, there was a desire to be perceived as the same as the others, not to be their disease, but to let them be themselves. It was also an opportunity to discover that they are not alone. Everyone had the idea of ​​doing useful work.

♦ Broadcast on Vrai