Being a Jew from Montreal and a graduate of the same high school as both Eli Batalion and Jamie Elman, the zany duo behind the online series “YidLife Crisis” as well as this film, I was curious to see what they’d highlight on their gastronomic tour of Montreal. Unlike their series, the Yiddish here is kept to a minimum, but the humor’s still there. The film includes a comic food tour of the city and history lesson about the Montreal Jewish community. Immigrants arrived in succeeding waves over the past century and impacted the foods within the Jewish community and beyond. (You can now get poutine, a classic Quebecois dish, topped with smoked meat). They also influenced the culture of the city (Leonard Cohen and Mordecai Richler), its businesses (schmatas/textiles and garments), and its medical field (the Jewish General Hospital).
This duo makes the history lesson fun, visiting eateries familiar to all Montrealers, Jewish or not, because they are emblematic of the city and part of every tourist’s itinerary.
For the most part, the documentary focuses on Ashkenazic foods, such as Montreal’s famous bagels. But the pair does travel to the neighborhood they grew up in, Côte Saint-Luc, a 70 percent Jewish suburb where many Moroccan, Egyptian, Lebanese and Iraqi Jews who arrived in the 1960s and ‘70s live, to sample some Sephardic food. Of late, Jewish food is “on trend.” Young Jewish chefs and foodies are creating their own style of classic dishes by drawing on the diversity of Jewish food traditions from around the world and giving them a fashionable freshness. Montreal is no exception, and the film ends by visiting those at the helm of Montreal’s Jewish foodie scene who, though creating cutting-edge and newfangled dishes, admit that it’s hard to beat the beloved food staples that have come to be synonymous with Montreal cuisine. Given that the Closing Night screening will have the bonus of including some of these Montreal dishes, you would be remiss not to attend.
Janice Convoy-Hellmann has been involved with the AJFF for almost 10 years, serving on both the Evaluation and Programming committees and pre-screening hundreds of films in advance of the festival.