Saturday, April 30, 2016

At last we hear the ringing voice of an ex-Montrealer

At last we hear the voice and see the vision of  a Montreal expatriate! Film-maker John Walker, who earned well-deserved kudos with his docudrama Passage, has worked magic again with Quebec My Country Mon Pays. Down through the decades, we have heard countless francophones and many an "anglo" speaking to the outside world from within Quebec. We have heard numerous Ontarians and western Canadians sounding off on the "Quebec problem." We have heard from immigrants who have recently taken up residence in Montreal. But the complex, haunted perspective of the ex-Montrealer? The individual of Scottish and Irish ancestry, say, who has been abridged and demonized as a "maudit Anglais" and driven out of the home where his ancestors have lived for a couple of hundred years? That is someone we have not yet heard from -- not on a major scale. Walker has stepped into and filled that void. How did he get the legendary Denys Arcand to articulate the prevailing Quebecois attitude so openly? And that is just one of the triumphs. While telling a personal story, and a political one, Walker moves between French and English. He moves across classes and from city to country. He takes us across generations and highlights recurring challenges. He evokes the past through wonderful old photos and clips. In the present, he rides us into Montreal on the train, and visits the historic church at St. Eustache (look right). He even goes to Scotland for the recent referendum. Walker's ambitious film may prove controversial. This much is certain: it will resonate with ex-Montrealers, and yes, we are legion. [Quebec My Country shows again at HotDocs on May 3 and May 8.]