Film Crews Abound Today in St-Henry Neighbourhood of Montréal

[Montréal, Québec, Canada 22°C] August 23, 2010 is a special day in St-Henry, a traditionally working class area of Montréal that is nestled southwest of downtown just north of the Lachine Canal. Parabola Films is documenting the neighbourhood’s cultural landscape in a single day with 12 crews roaming the streets and alleys.

The project, St-Henry, the 26th of August, is directed by Shannon Walsh, a Montréal-based filmmaker whose feature documentary, H2Oil, traces the high human and environmental costs of the Alberta tar sands. It is co-written by her and Denis Valiquette who grew up in the neighbourhood, where he lived until 2002. Some of the 12 crew directors include Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette (Le Ring), Tracey Deer (Mohawk Girls), Amy Miller (Myths for Profit) and others.

Why so many crews? Why St-Henry? Why today, you may ask? According to the film’s website,

“Our film is inspired by the 1962 documentary classic, “À St-Henri le 5 septembre”, in which a group of young Quebec filmmakers also sought to describe the then working class neighbourhood of St-Henri over the course of a single, randomly chosen day. Their documentary captured the particular character of an historic and political moment of everyday life in Quebec, as well as the spirit of direct-cinema at that time.”

À St-Henry le 5 septembre is a National Film board of Canada documentary (embedded below) that gives us a glimpse of a bygone era, and it will be interested to see how today’s film crews will capture a place changed from a half-century that has brought the world into a digital age we have yet to fully understand the implications.

I was lucky to work with the project’s Lead Director of Photography, Julien Fontaine (La Théorie de tout, Les Porteurs d’espoir) and soundman, Christophe Motte. I volunteered for just a couple of hours on the project and slowly drove a pickup truck along St-Henry’s streets and back alleys as Christophe recorded ambient sound and  Julien recorded footage strapped in the back with his Steadycam. I was just the driver, but I got the chance to do some production assistance after an interview with a St-Henry resident outside a local dépaneur by having him sign release forms. (see video below) It was a pleasure watching talented people at work.

I look forward to watching the final edited film and comparing it with the original inspiration.

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