Skip to main content

The NFB at HotDocs: St Henri, the 26th of August

The NFB at HotDocs: St Henri the 26th of August
a film by Shannon Walsh et al (see below)
Sun, May 8 6:00 PM
The ROM Theatre - Toronto


St Henri is an interesting film that covers a day - the 26th of August to be exact - in this neighbourhood in the southwest end of Montreal. And I'd call it a "working class" neighbourhood, but working, barely
working, working too hard to make ends meet and not working at all is probably a more apt description.

The film begins with a ditty about having nothing but still being able to laugh, and the film goes on to flesh out the notion in an intimate portrait of a neighbourhood struggling with the combination of decline and condo-ization through its denizens. We follow Doris on her day - on welfare, she raids recycling bins for bottles and store garbage bins for discarded fruits and veggies, stopping to chat with friends along the way. It's a sunny day, she notes, and it's pleasant to walk in the nice weather. "We're all on welfare here," she remarks, pointing out that only a thin alley way separates the rich who live in new condos and the poor on the other side. There seems to be no middle ground - or middle class - here.

Other characters emerge, from an engaging elderly couple out for a stroll - These are the best years of our lives says the woman as they walk hand in hand - to Lee the shopkeeper, a hairdresser, kids going to school, the delivery guy and many more. The action centres around hood's landmarks, like the Lachine Canal, Atwater Market, and busy rue Notre Dame. The place that emerges slowly from all their voices is one of  interconnected lives, a place where everybody knows everybody and simple pleasures abound: digging for worms to fish, hanging in the coffee shop, dancing with your friends on your birthday.

There are a few outside voices who interject,like the garage owner who wouldn't dream of living in "hell". A kid's homemade fort in the woods is destroyed, its location littered with used syringes. One woman reminisces about the days decades ago when she lived with 25 other people in a 3 bedroom apartment.

By evening, the children are off the street and the eccentrics come out - a club of electric low rider enthusiasts who spend up to $15K on their beloved machines and drive them around the darkened streets. There's a woman who explores the sewers for hidden treasures, amateur knife throwers, a basement band. These are people with a DIY attitude, who've made something of their lives from whatever fate has tossed their way.

It's an engaging portrait of the determined resilience of a people and a neighbourhood often dismissed and thought of as downtrodden.

Historical note: the film is an update of Hubert Aquin's 1962 "À Saint-Henri le cinq septembre". On September 5, 1962, Claude Jutra, Michel Brault, Don Owen and Arthur Lipsett roamed the streets of St-Henri with other emerging National Film Board filmmakers in a style now known as "direct cinema".

The directors this time around were:
Director
Shannon Walsh
Unit director:
Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette
Richard Brouillette
Tracey Deer
Claude Demers
Halima Elkhatabi
Sylvain L'Espérance
Caroline Martel
Amy Miller
Kaveh Nabatian
Denis Valiquette
Karen Vanderborght
Shannon Walsh
Additional Direction: Fabien Côté
Yanie Dupont-Hébert
Julien Fontaine
Paul Kell
Brett Story

Comments

  1. St. Henri is NOT an east end neighbourhood. It's in the southwest of Montreal.

    ReplyDelete
  2. My apologies - it's been fixed. I got it mixed up in my head with somewhere else.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

What Else Is Hot This Week?

Jazzy Pop: Shihori - Soul Trip (Independent / 4 September 2020)

Jazzy Pop:
Shihori - Soul Trip
(Independent / 4 September 2020)New York City based singer and songwriter Shihori's new single Soul Trip is atmospheric and ambient. Interesting rhythms and interwoven melodic vocal lines showcase jazzy harmonic progressions in a slow groove mode. 
As a songwriter, she uses electronic effects with impeccable musical taste. As a singer, her flexible vocals range from a sweet soprano to a strong mid-range.A veteran of the Japanese pop scene, Shihori moved to New York City in 2018, a move she talks about in a media release."I was so surprised when I came to NY for the first time. Independent and strong women are respected and there are lots of different preferences in music and style. I thought, 'oh my God! This place really accepts uniqueness and freedom! I didn't know there is a place like this totally different world that allows you to be yourself. Everybody looks so different. So many races, colors, cultures, fashion, ideas...I am so happy…

Recently Released | The smallest Creature: Magic Beans (Independent / 30 September 2020)

Recently Released
The smallest Creature: Magic Beans
(Independent / 30 September 2020)Stream it on SpotifyWith influences from The Beatles to Alice in Chains, The smallest Creature's Magic Beans is an album of alt-rock with an intimate, almost alt-folk feel to it. The lyrics are poetic and integral to the song, lit up with tight chops and accomplished musicality.
Would You Blink has a nice sense of urgency and a driving rhythm, contrasted by October Song, something of an old blues song with a 21st century rock makeover. Their grunge influences come to the fore in Glow, with Let Burn another guitar-heavy rocker. The band goes softer in Break Me, an acoustic song that spotlights Stefanos Marnerides' soft tenor. The smallest Creature hail from Larnaca in Cyprus in the sunny Mediterranean. The smallest Creature is the brainchild of Stefanos Marnerides, with the name starting off as an alias in NYC where Stefanos was performing solo gigs and recording demos. When later Stefanos moved …

Alt Country | Doc Straw & the Scarecrows: Get on By (Independent / July 31, 2020)

Alt Country
Doc Straw & the Scarecrows: Get on By
(Independent / July 31, 2020)Stream it on SpotifyClever lyrics that tell a story and an appealing acoustic bounce give the new single by Doc Straw & the Scarecrows a classic modern folk vibe. The vocal harmonies are pleasing and the words are an upbeat ode to persevering during tough times.
It's a timely message, and Doc talked about it in a release."I wrote this song after getting off of a 3-hour long phone conversation with my sister, Jessica, and a lot of our conversation that evening  centered around some of the tougher things in life and how we were dealing with these struggles. If a person lives long enough then at some point they will experience these trying seasons. I've learned that it's important to pay attention during those times because that is when we have some of the best opportunities to grow."It has a nicely haunting harmonica line and builds to an emotional peak. Virginia based Mike Straw is…

Missing Italy? A Virtual Exhibition Can Help

From a release:Missing Italy? A Virtual Exhibition Can HelpCheck Out The Exhibition OnlineENIT and Italy: A Beautiful Tale, is a three-dimensional online virtual exhibition presenting the origins and development of ENIT (the Italian National Tourist Board) and its fundamental role for more than one hundred years in promoting Italy, as an international tourist destination. Telling our story means presenting part of Italy’s history.
You can visit the exhibition through four sections:Establishment of the National tourist board and its development;A historical selection of posters presenting travel throughout Italy;Editorial pages promoted by the tourist board;A selection of photographs from our archives covering all of the Italian peninsula from north to south.The goal is to let the public about the agency's work in promoting Italy in a digital, interactive display.

Psychedelic Punk Rock | Lord Sonny the Unifier: (All My Friends Live) Underground (Independent / 25 September 2020)

Psychedelic Punk Rock
Lord Sonny the Unifier: (All My Friends Live) Underground
(Independent / 25 September 2020)Stream it on SpotifyLayers of rhythm and percussive piano characterize this earworm track from Brooklyn's Lord Sonny the Unifier. With spooky harmonies and guitar that is all distortion with a psychedelic vibe, it's a compelling single for the time. Sonny builds the track with an almost orchestral sensibility to a big sound finish.
Greg Jiritano, the main impetus behind Lord Sonny, talked about the song in a media release."(All My Friends Live) Underground is a song about iconoclasts and outsiders who find their group of freaks, or Tribe in the shadows and underbelly, outside the conventions of  society. It's a calling to join us and leave behind  what society has embraced as the norms and the acceptable, the well trod path above. Leave the trivialities being thrust upon us since birth and join our Tribe and rediscover there the truths that will enrich you and…