You have to delve into your memories for a long time to find traces of the Lovaganza affair, a scandal that nevertheless cost millions, even tens of millions of dollars. And watching The Great Illusionthe documentary on this dark story directed by Aude Leroux-Lévesque and Sébastien Rist, we understand, with a certain frustration, why this file has disappeared from the news.
In 2009, Jean-François Gagnon and Geneviève Cloutier officially launched the Lovaganza project, which was to be not only a large-scale Hollywood trilogy, but also a philanthropic movement to “give all children an equal opportunity”. Nothing less!
Step by step, the documentary, of quite classic style, but frankly effective, allows us to hear the testimonies of various people affected by the scandal, whether they are former employees, relatives, or even investors, and even the journalists who will investigate this affair, when the smell of fraud and embezzlement begins to become heady.
Because it is indeed fraud that it is, according to the Autorité des marchés financiers, which will ultimately file hundreds of charges against the couple, their company and certain associates. After dangling miraculous returns on investment (it’s never realistic, beware), the managers of Lovaganza seem rather to live a life of luxury at the expense of Mr. and Mrs. Everybody who has sometimes gobbled up small fortunes in the adventure, believing that the trilogy would indeed be the subject of an agreement with a major studio or a major distributor.
And if the couple at the heart of the affair ended up shooting bits of film, here and there, we never saw the shadow of a feature film. Or even a serious project. And what was shot was not only of poor quality, but also stemmed from a process that was plagued with a host of issues that usually revolved around lack of money, late payments, and so on. After all, you can’t steal the money if you spend it!
Not only does Lovaganza stink of the pyramid structure, but in addition, its creators have given a little spiritual varnish to the whole thing, just to touch the sensitive chords of many investors who will end up losing everything.
But the most frustrating, what annoys the most, is not that this kind of fraud exists, but it is that 13 years after the start of the project, and several years after the start of the proceedings by the AMF, no one important is still behind bars. The journalist Pierre-Olivier Zappa will also have this moment of annoyance, where he will bluntly say that he does not understand why, years later, an economic crime of such magnitude did not lead to a request for the extradition of the couple Gagnon and Cloutier, or against prison sentences for the couple of managers who supported them. Are we cowardly turning a blind eye to this kind of criminal act in Quebec? Even when millions have been stolen?