The provocative, distinguished filmmaker Anne Claire Poirier is perhaps the most important female director of her generation in Canada. She is credited with initiating feminist filmmaking in Quebec with her landmark feature length documentary De mère en fille (1968). A personal as well as political reflection on pregnancy and maternity, De mère en fille was the first feature film ever directed by a French-Canadian woman.
Poirier joined the National Film Board (NFB) in 1960 and spent a couple of years working as assistant editor and assistant director in the shadow of her colleagues Claude Jutra, Michel Brault, Gilles Groulx and others. In 1963, she was commissioned to direct a documentary on actor Christopher Plummer, 30 Minutes, Mister Plummer, and the following year, she wrote and directed her first fiction short, La fin des étés (1964), starring Geneviève Bujold.
Three years after making De mère en fille, Poirier published the text En tant que femmes: Rapport de recherches (1971) with Jeanne Morazain Boucher. It was part of her proposal to the NFB for the establishment of a production program coordinated by women. This veritable manifesto for the creation of an interventionist feminist cinema in Quebec to break the isolation of women and educate society on the female condition led to the production of the En tant que femmes film series, the first significant wave of activist documentaries and docudramas realized by women at the NFB. While head of the series program from 1972 to 1974, Poirier produced four films by other female directors as well as directing two films of her own: Les filles du Roy (1974) and Le temps de l'avant (1975). Employing an effective mixture of historical reconstruction and personal commentary, Les filles du Roy paints a vibrant picture of the history of Quebec women's traditional roles as servants, mothers and wives, a subject systematically ignored by male cineastes. The straightforward dramatic feature Le temps de l'avant wasaimed primarily at sensitizing men to the issue of abortion.
In 1979, Poirier achieved full recognition as a major filmmaker with the release of her strikingly innovative and daring docudrama on rape, Mourir à tue-tête. In this uncompromising look at the individual and collective brutalization of women's bodies, Poirier blended documentary and fiction to criticize society and institutions for failing to provide victims with the support to which they are entitled. The film’s graphic depiction of rape and its putative suggestion that all men are potential rapists raised a storm of debate seldom seen in the history of Canadian film. A cry of rage that still echoes today, Mourir à tue-tête remains the most controversial production of Poirier's career.
In contrast, Poirier’s fiction films La quarantaine (1982) and Salut Victor! (1988) are accessible, traditional dramas on how friendship can transcend time and differences. In 1989, for the 50th anniversary of the NFB, she made a documentary on the representation of women in dozens of NFB films: Il y a longtemps que je t’aime. Her documentary film, Tu as crié Let Me Go (1996) returned to the violent theme of Mourir à tue-tête. But the explicit political agenda of the 1979 production was replaced by a highly personal outlook on the corruption of contemporary society, as Poirier reflects with a mixture of pain and serenity on the murder of her own daughter in October 1992 in a drug-related dispute.