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Tributes for Quebec film 'visionary' Daniel Langlois; four suspects detained in death

MONTREAL — Tributes are pouring in for celebrated Quebec businessman and philanthropist Daniel Langlois after he and his partner were found dead in the Caribbean island nation of Dominica last week.

The Daniel Langlois Foundation updated its website on Monday to say the founder of film software company Softimage and his partner, Dominique Marchand, died "in tragic circumstances" on Friday near the resort they owned called Coulibri Ridge.

Born in 1957 in Jonquière, Que., Langlois started a company whose 3D technology was used to create special effects in blockbusters such as "Jurassic Park," "Titanic" and "Lord of the Rings." The company was later acquired by Microsoft.

In a press release, Coulibri Ridge and the Daniel Langlois Foundation said the details of the couple's deaths would be revealed in the coming weeks and months "as the Dominican police authorities and justice system proceed to the investigation."

"Today, our primary focus is to highlight the extraordinary contributions made by Daniel and Dominique to the people of Dominica," the release says. Those efforts, it says, included the resilient Dominica project, created to help the island's reconstruction after the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017, as well as Marchand's work with the local humane society.

Multiple media have reported that two bodies, believed to be those of Langlois and Marchand, were found in a charred vehicle on Friday; the couple had been reported missing. Dominica's national security minister, Rayburn Blackmoore, said in an address on the Dominica Broadcasting Corporation on Monday that police received a call about a "potential homicide arson" at about 7 a.m. Friday.

Four "people of interest" have been taken into custody, Blackmoore said, including one Dominica national and three non-nationals.

Blackmoore said he'd made contact with Canadian officials to express Dominica's regret and "to give the assurance of Dominica’s dedication to solving this crime."

Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge described Langlois as "a visionary" in digital technologies and cinema, whose work will leave a lasting impact. "His legacy reflects his innovative spirit," she wrote on X, the platform formally known as Twitter. "My thoughts are with his loved ones."

In addition to founding Softimage, Langlois was also an important part of the arts and movie scene in Montreal, where he founded the Excentris performing arts centre in 1999. He also worked for the National Film Board early in his career.

The Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, previously hosted at Excentris, paid tribute to Langlois, its "great patron" and former president of its board of directors. "Daniel was a man of integrity, generous, visionary and of great discretion," director Nicolas Girard-Deltruc said in a statement. The festival has handed out an annual prize for innovation in Langlois's name since 2007, he added.

"We share the pain of his family and loved ones. We would like to pay him a great tribute and thank him from the bottom of our hearts for his immense contribution."

The Daniel Langlois Foundation was started in 1997 to "further artistic and scientific knowledge by fostering the meeting of art and science in the fields of technology." Another of its programs helps developing countries affected by natural disasters and climate change.

Langlois had spent many years living in Dominica, located between Guadeloupe and Martinique, where he and Marchand owned Coulibri Ridge, a luxury hotel that describes itself as an "eco-retreat."

Langlois was named an officer of the Order of Canada, a knight of the Order of Quebec, and has received several honorary doctorates from universities.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2023.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press