Exploring the Diversity of Montreal in ‘Huit’

How director Mathieu Grimard combined eight perspectives on Montreal into one short film.

Jun 29 2016, 2:34pm

Still via Huit.

In Mathieu Grimard's Huit, a group of eight people are asked to pinpoint Montreal's appeal and explain why it is that they choose to make this city their home. These Montrealers include a writer (Sarah-Maude Beauchesne), an actor (Simon Boulerice), a photographer (Francis Duval), a city councilor (Sterling Downey), a rapper (Lary Kidd), a CEO (Ethan Song), an Urban Projects planner (Patsy Van Roost), and an artistic director/photographer/model (2Fik). United by their connection to Grimard—a veteran director of music videos and commercials—these subjects acknowledge the city's imperfections, but rally behind the beauty, diversity, and "rollercoaster of emotions" that Montreal has to offer. Taken together, their voices perfectly articulate Grimard's conclusion: the people are the soul of the city.

For this film, you asked 8 Montrealers why they'd stay in Montreal if they could live anywhere else in the world. How would you answer that question?
Mathieu Grimard: Honestly, that's a good question—and I don't think I can answer it. It's the reason I made the film. I was born and raised in Montreal, so I wanted to take a step back from my perspective on my city. I had to see the city through these people's eyes to be able to appreciate it more and it's a process that I'm going through right now. Montreal made me who I am today. When you don't get out of the city where you were born and raised, you tend to not see these things, but in the last few years, I traveled a lot and it gave me a new appreciation for Montreal.

What aspects of Montreal have you come to appreciate?
Honestly, it's the people. It's the cultural clash that creates this awesome diversity. In the movie, there's one guy called Ethan Song, the founder of Frank & Oak. At one point, he says that Montreal is not a city to see, it's a city to live, and I couldn't agree more with him on that. That's what Montreal is in my opinion.

How do you interpret that quote?
Montreal is not conventionally beautiful. When you walk in the streets, the architecture is so different from one neighbourhood to another. It's a small city, but when you meet the people, when you see the vibe, the restaurants, the people that run the businesses, there's something that is warm about this city. People want to go out. People want to talk to each other. That's why you have to live the city. You can't just walk around and see it like any other European city.

There's also a line in your film about Montreal being "a big city in a small city's body." What does that mean to you?
In terms of size and population, Montreal is a small city, but the opportunities you have in this city are big. You can be seen from anywhere in the world when you're in Montreal. There are no boundaries to the opportunities that you have in this city. I think that's why Montreal feels like a big city—in a small city.

How did you select the Montrealers you interviewed for the film?
I decided to pick people that are influential, but I didn't want any person to be too well known. They're people that do things for the city, but you couldn't really recognize them. Some of them are my friends, people I know, people I have on my Facebook. Others are people I admire. I follow their careers. It's my vision of Montreal.

With this film, you're working in the documentary form. Why did you decide to explore the city in that way?
I don't usually do documentaries, but for this project, I wanted to put the content and the people up front. When you do that, the only way to go is to speak with them and let them guide what the content will be, so that's what I did. Everybody in the movie gave me different locations where we went to shoot. I don't think I could have done this project differently.

Is it a good time to be a creative person in Montreal?
That's a big question, but I think it's a good time, yes. I feel like for the last five, six years, I've seen a lot of Montrealers export their work to everywhere in the world and get recognized for it. We have eyes on us right now.

Do you have any favourite Montreal artists, filmmakers, or musicians?
I do admire the work of directors that are from Montreal that are working in the US and Europe like Jean-Marc Vallée and Denis Villeneuve. They are really inspiring to me, maybe because I work in the same production company that they used to work in. I like the work of so many Montreal artists that it's hard to say. There are painters like Marc Seguin. I love his work. He has a studio in New York now. Alexandra Stréliski does beautiful work too. She travels a lot to play the piano.

For those who have never been to Montreal, what do you think they're missing?
They're missing the sounds of Montreal in the summer. All the closed streets and festivals where people walk. You can hear music. One thing I have noticed in the last two or three years is that on a single night in Montreal, you can go to an MLS soccer game, see Orchestre symphonique de Montréal at the Olympic Stadium, have a world renowned band playing at the Bell Centre, visit a graffiti festival on St. Laurent Street, or go to the food trucks that are in some public space and there's like 2,000 people there. When you're a tourist in this city in the summer or any other season, we're going to keep you busy.

This article was paid for by Tourisme Montreal and was created independently from VICE's editorial staff.

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