Main Event

Skater Doc Evolves Into Decade-Long Street Culture Chronicle

  • Skaters at Peace Park Photo by Danny Stevenson

It’s the street of work and play, of smoked meat and steamies, raunchy film and illicit entertainment, endless days and nuits blanches. It’s been immortalized in Richler’s fiction and in 1996 it was declared a national heritage site.

But lately, it just seems that the Main isn’t getting the love it deserves.

According to Montreal professional skateboarder and Place de la Paix/Peace Park documentary filmmaker David “Boots” Bouthillier, the City of Montreal’s ongoing plans to gentrify the lower Main’s red-light district leave more than the abandoned stone facades of once-vibrant shops and venues subject to destruction.

Peace Park is the result of over 12 years of Bouthillier’s filming, research and writing.
With the help of friend Jessica McIntyre, it testifies to the resilience of the cultural beat that has keeps the lower Main running through less illustrious times, but also exposes the gaps that city clean-ups, corruption and large-scale projects have forced onto the community.

The result is a work that’s informative, thought-provoking and, in many cases, touching and shockingly raw.

Bouthillier is a professional skateboarder who rides for Urban Ambush, is sponsored by Rastaline and has been skating since he was five years old.

His interests in filming didn’t go beyond capturing skate tricks for his friends in the popular Place de la Paix on St. Laurent Blvd. between Ste. Catherine St. and René-Lévesque Blvd. until a collision with a taxi left him temporarily unable to walk.

When Bouthillier turned his camera on the world around him in the Place de la Paix, commonly called the Peace Park by locals, he found he had plenty to film.

Not only does Peace Park’s flowing layout and granite elements attract skaters like Bouthillier, but the red-light district, homeless shelters and Aboriginal centers which surround it attract street people. Bouthillier was able to film the transients’ sometimes violent clashes with the skaters and one another.

“The focus was originally to capture as much gnarly footage as I could to create a big beat-‘em-up skating video, but I eventually realized that I could make this into something much bigger and better,” said Bouthillier.

His firsthand narration offers viewers the rare treat of watching a documentary with a driving personality behind its figures and facts. Bouthillier’s own involvement with issues in skating, documenting and protecting the Main infuse Peace Park with yet another storyline: his own.
No stranger to clashes with police at the park himself, Bouthillier incurred a $628 fine for allegedly skateboarding in the park in 2009.

“The focus was originally to capture as much gnarly footage as I could to create a big beat-‘em-up skating video, but I eventually realized that I could make this into something much bigger and better.”

Ironically, he later received substantial grants to his production house, MQC, from the Canada Council for the Arts, le Conseil des arts du Québec and l’Aide au cinéma indépendant canadien to help with the filming and production of Peace Park.  

Through its visceral footage alone, the film could settle for merely relaying the stories of clashes between police, skaters and street people and do an admirable job. But like most good documentaries, Peace Park challenges the audience’s knowledge and prejudices in its mission to inform and stimulate.

Bouthillier has cultivated an intimate knowledge of the park’s street customs and history, as well as gaining the respect of its local street people—many of whom struggle with drug addiction, violent lifestyles and experience police and public discrimination on a regular basis.

In one of the film’s most tragic and memorable sequences, several locals lay bare their troubled pasts and daily struggles during one-on-one interviews, which are as jarring as any fight footage.
The film is full of local content, ranging from footage of tricks from local skateboarders and a soundtrack supplied by local musicians.

Bouthillier entered Peace Park into the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma in 2011 as a work in progress, and the film thrived, placing seventh in the recently defunct Montreal Mirror’s Best of Montreal list as the Best Local Movie of 2012.

Bouthillier is in the final editing stages, and aims to have the documentary ready by mid-August. Although the film is complete, he plans to keep releasing Peace Park episodes online. It’s a sign that the Main’s problems—and, subsequently, Bouthillier’s documentary efforts—aren’t anywhere close to reaching a conclusion.

“Anything can happen,” Bouthillier said of the Main’s future. “There are many ways to move forward, and things are always in a state of constant change.”

For more information about Peace Park and to follow daily photos from the Park, check out @davidboots on Instagram or visit mqc514.com/peacepark

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