François Girard delves into the history with “Hochelaga, the land of the souls”

Photo: Annik MH de Carufel Le Devoir
“Before the arrival of Europeans, there has been a lot of things, here. There were already a lot of people,” says the filmmaker François Girard.

The film Hochelaga, the land of souls, is based on an ingenious premise. Following a landslide at the stade Percival-Molson is a hole at the bottom of which a stream flows under-ground. A young phd student in archaeology, is convinced that it would be the original site of the legendary iroquoian village of Hochelaga, the future headquarters of Montreal. Of excavation and subsequent flow different historical anecdotes of a dive, literally, in the past.

 

By doing this, the filmmaker François Girard plunges him also, but in itself, as he explains from the outset in addressing the genesis and development of this ambitious project. “For reasons out of my control, my work in opera and film brought me almost everywhere in the world, I was off-center. I needed not only to go back to where I live, but also to question the place where I live. This film is born from the desire to return to my roots. “

 

Or return ” to the sources “, to use the image of the stream, which returns like a leitmotiv. “The film, it is simply this : I dug a hole up to my roots, to our roots ; I look at history through the hole of the lock. My love for Montreal has been a motivation, but it is primarily a quest for identity ; this is not a film tribute. I saw the opportunity to understand who I am, who we are. “

 

Inheritance and mixing

 

The approach may be of introspection, this is an epic feel which carries Hochelaga, the land of souls. The action starts and closes in 1267 at the edge of this creek that will be buried in later centuries. In the meantime, it is consistent, in our days, the character of the Baptist Asigny (the rapper Samian), the doctoral student in archaeology. Revealed during her thesis defense, of the artifacts discovered during the excavation trigger each one in the back.

 

What we are witnessing in 1687, to the passion thwarted by illness, and the Church, between a trapper (Emmanuel Schwartz) and an Algonquin (Tanaya Beatty) ; the leak in 1837 of two patriots (including one played by Sebastien Ricard) assisted by a rich English (Siân Phillips) ; the first exchanges between Jacques Cartier (Vincent Perez) and the Iroquois in 1535.

 

“Before the arrival of Europeans, there has been a lot of things, here. There were already a lot of people. It was long past it in silence, because there is no written traces, and also because, as a society, we disposed of our amerindian heritage. “


Photo: Les Films Séville
We are witnessing, in “Hochelaga, the land of the souls”, the first exchanges between Jacques Cartier (Vincent Perez) and the Iroquois in 1535.

The intermingling, solidarity and encounter, themes, similar, moreover, are central in a movie where they speak French (and old French), English, latin, mohawk, algonquin…

 

In this regard, by writing the screenplay, François Girard has in particular sought the expertise of the spiritual leader algonquin-Dominique Rankin and George Wahiakeron, which was given the mandate to preserve, in the transmitting, the mohawk language, threatened. The latter embodies, in addition to, with force, the presence, chief Tannawake (which receives Jacques Cartier).

This is not a film tribute. I saw the opportunity to understand who I am, who we are.
François Girard

A narrative abounding

 

As in The red violin of the same François Girard, the times follow one another and respond to one another in Hochelaga, the land of the souls, all interrelated, in the present, not by an instrument, but this time by a site. In the context of a narrative that is fascinating, such an anchoring of drama and symbolism to maintain cohesion — and coherence — narrative.

 

“I am on a street corner in London or in my living room, I find myself sometimes wondering who was held there before me lived there before me, there are a hundred, two hundred years,” says François Girard. My loft, I see the mont-Royal, I see the stade Percival-Molson. This is a fantasy I share with many people, I imagine, to ask me who those were who were looking at this same mountain a thousand years ago, under the same sky, facing the same winter. It is this connection, through the place, I wanted to explore. Ask who has been there before us, it is to inform our own route, it seems to me. “

 

In the film, it is brief passages the surrealists in which past(s) and present collide, the souls of yesterday watching the live today, and vice versa. “To force them to contemplate the same place, the time disappears. “Like down ethnic barriers and languages.

 

“Here, and by extension on Earth, we do one, collectively,” says François Girard, the party of the intimate to better achieve the universal.

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