Mohawk archaeologist Baptiste Asigny engages in a search for his ancestors following a tragic terrain slump in the Percival Molson Stadium, in François Girard’s multifaceted portrait of Montreal’s rich history.
Hochelaga, Terre des Âmes
François Girard, one of Canada's most accomplished filmmakers, has tackled histories and epic narratives before in Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, The Red Violin, and Silk. Hochelaga, Land of Souls is his most ambitious project to date — a grand fresco on the history of Montreal that spans 750 years.
On a summer night a sinkhole opens during a football game in a downtown Montreal stadium, revealing long-buried artifacts beneath. Archeologist Baptiste Asigny (Samian) and a research team believe they are on the brink of linking the site to the Iroquois village of Hochelaga, the probable location of the meeting between Jacques Cartier and the Iroquois people in 1535. Weaving together past and present, the film visits and revisits Hochelaga through the centuries. Girard takes us back to the village in 1267, centuries before it was colonized; to the arrival of Cartier (Vincent Perez) and its violent disruptions; to a deadly epidemic that hit a young Montreal in 1687; to the turmoil of the Lower Canada Rebellion in 1837; to a pioneering moment in neurology in 1944.
Girard's grand cinematic scope is matched by the precision and intimacy of his mise en scène. As a storyteller, he offers a kaleidoscopic take on history that prompts timely reflection on the role of origin, identity, and place in shaping the soul of a nation.
Roy Thomson Hall