Shannon Walsh (Canada, Canadian Spectrum)
Tuesday, May 3, 6:30 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)
Thursday, May 5, 12:30 p.m.
The Cumberland (159 Cumberland Street)
Sunday, May 8, 6 p.m.
The ROM Theatre (100 Queen’s Park)
The Montreal neighborhood of St-Henri has changed quite a bit since the ’60s. Once a bustling home to poor French factory workers, the neighbourhood now plays host to punks, families, hipsters, junkies, weirdos, senior citizens, yuppies, students, struggling immigrants, Anglos, and Francos alike. On August 26, 2010, inspired by the 1962 documentary Á Saint-Henri le 5 Septembre, Shannon Walsh sent 12 film crews to the streets to capture a day in the life of this evolving working class locale.
The result is a study in contemporary urban identity: an older woman on welfare takes us dumpster diving in the Atwater Market; a masked street artist pastes posters under the cover of darkness; a milkman takes a moment to brag about his 16 hour shift. The subjects share little in common except their neighbourhood, but we quickly realize this actually amounts to sharing a lot.
Stark contrasts emerge as the film’s odd cast of characters vies over the same small space. We see two young kids come across syringes in their secret hideout, and bougie condo developments propped up against abandoned factories and working class homes. Yet rather than condemn the neighbourhood as an illustration of urban alienation, the film seems to revel in the dumpy goofiness of it all. Aided in no small part by Polaris Prize–winning musician Patrick Watson’s lighthearted score, St-Henri, The 26th of August makes the case that it is precisely from this unique confrontation of lives and spaces that a new sense of communal identity begins to emerge.