An ode to Montreal, city of snow
Filmmaker Ezra Soiferman shows his love of snow plows in Montréal, Snowbec
This video was produced by Ezra Soiferman as part of the CBC Creator Network. Learn more about the Creator Network here.
I love winter, but mostly because I love snow plows.
It all started when I was a little kid. I'd hear the telltale rumble of plows passing outside my home and I'd dash to the front window, kneel atop the corduroy sofa and press my face against the frosty glass.
There I'd sit transfixed, marveling at the armada of powerful beasts slowly rolling by. My very favourite of the motley crew of these mammoth, metal monsters was the tiniest: the yellow sidewalk plows with army tank treads that I dubbed "mini-tanks."
Back then, these vehicles were made by Bombardier, the same Quebec-based company that invented the legendary Ski-Doo. For a kid, there was no pedigree cooler than that. How I dreamed of one day being the fearless, scarf-clad pilot of one of those adorable, pint-sized plows. If winter in Montreal was a war to contend with, I'd be the first to enlist to fight the sub-zero battle to clear our city's over 10,000 kilometres of streets and sidewalks.
Alas, that career move still hasn't come to pass. But seven years ago, something special happened during a late-night winter walk in my west-end neighbourhood of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. I asked the driver of one such mini-tank if I could film him doing the spin-around manoeuvre he and his colleagues often perform when they need to turn around in a tight space. (Picture a tank pivoting in place by moving one tread forward and the other backwards.)
I was expecting a modest, but still delightful, turn-on-a-dime U-turn. But the young driver proceeded to treat me to a dizzying, triple 360-degree spin that would have garnered a gold were the Winter Olympics to host a competition called Extreme Snow Plow Acrobatics.
As soon as I played back the footage on my near-frozen iPhone, I decided I needed to make a film about the magic of snow clearing in Montreal. That's how my new short musical documentary, Montréal, Snowbec was born.
Over the ensuing years, along my beloved walks in NDG and throughout Montreal, I gathered colossal digital snowbanks' worth of footage of the myriad rolling creatures that push, plow, grade, gather, blow and dump our city's snow each winter. I even got to ride along to the city's largest snow dump in a snow-laden dump truck, to film where it all actually winds up.
Ultimately, my film is a love letter to winter in Montreal and the many ways we deal with the copious amount of snow the heavens bestow on us for at least five months of the year. And though its focus broadened from simply filming snow clearing operations to also covering all manner of coping mechanisms Montrealers have for winter (shoveling, sweeping, skiing, skating, sledding, etc.), I feel like I've managed to pull off something that can give us all (Montrealers and tourists alike) a real taste of what un vrai hiver is like around here.
The Creator Network, which works with emerging visual storytellers to bring their stories to CBC platforms, produced the piece. If you have an idea for the Creator Network, you can send your pitch here.