Special Guest Samantha Gold talks about getting vaccinated against COVID-19 in Quebec, Premier François Legault’s comments on Montreal rental prices and more with host Jason C. McLean

Follow Samantha Gold on Facebook @samiamart & Instagram @samiamartistmtl

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter @jasoncmclean

Book your Quebec vaccine appointment through Clic Santé according to the schedule

Quebec’s curfew will once again run from 9:30pm to 5am as of next Monday, May 3rd in Montreal and Laval. The government had pushed it back to 8pm on April 8th out of fear that COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations would spike here as they did in other regions. The infection rate instead went down.

The Outaouais region will remain on the strictest set of restrictions for another week. In the Quebec City region, a recently hard-hit area that is doing better, will see primary schools re-open, but other restrictions, including the 8pm curfew, stay in place. The rest of the province will remain where they are, restriction-wise.

Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement in an early afternoon press conference joined by Christian Dubé, Minister of Health and Social Services, and National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda. Arruda also noted that a Quebecer who received the AstraZeneca vaccine has died of thrombosis, making her the first Canadian to die as a result of complications from the vaccine.

Legault and Arruda emphasized, though, that cases like this are extremely rare and overall the vaccination rollout is going very well. Legault said that we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel but don’t want to be hit by the train on our way out, which he equated to the third wave.

On April 20, 2021 the Superior Court of Quebec issued a ruling on Bill 21, Quebec’s Secularism law which many Canadians were awaiting with baited breath. It was a victory for some, and a tragedy for others.

In its decision, it upholds the Quebec Secularism law with the exception of English schools in Quebec, and the Coalition Avenir du Quebec government under Premier François Legault has already announced its plans to appeal. This article will give a rundown of the ruling itself, the response by those affected, and what it represents to the people of Quebec and Canada.

I’m not going to go into all the nuances of Quebec’s Secularism Law, hereafter Bill 21. I gave a full and detailed rundown in multiple articles when the law was forced through the National Assembly in 2019.

In a nutshell, it severely limits employment in most of Quebec’s public sector as well as access to certain government services for anyone who wears religious symbols, including crosses, hijabs, headscarves, and kipas/yarmulkes. At the time, the government claimed the law would unite Quebeckers, but it has made us more divided than ever. Hate crimes and harassment of Muslim women are on the rise, something experts tried to warn the government about prior to the law’s passing.

The government knew that the law would never survive a legal challenge based on constitutional rights so they wrote in the Notwithstanding Clause, a clause written into Canada’s constitution to allow discriminatory rules to remain in effect for five years notwithstanding certain articles in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is largely the court’s measure of the effect of the Notwithstanding Clause that decided the outcome of the case.

I knew that no matter WHAT the court’s ruling, someone would appeal the decision. That someone is the Quebec government and it is unfortunate because for the most part, the Quebec government won the case.

Bill 21 is still in effect, and teachers and other people hoping for the stability that comes with public employment have had their hopes dashed, with one exception. The court decided that Bill 21 remains valid due to the province’s use of the Notwithstanding Clause, with the exception of English schools, which are constitutionally protected by a clause in the constitution that isn’t covered by the Notwithstanding Clause, as well as the National Assembly. It is this aspect that the government plans to appeal, claiming that this exception divides Quebec when the province’s society should be united.

William Korbatly, a lawyer, feels the government’s claim that the judge’s ruling split Quebec is erroneous and dishonest.

“[I]t’s the law 21 that did that by making some Quebeckers lesser citizens than those who think of themselves (as) superior or have more privileges just because they are part of the cultural majority. That being said, we cannot deny that a large part of Quebeckers have serious problems and are very allergic to any religious manifestation in public spaces. Thus, politically speaking, that law should be put to the courts’ authorities and they will decide what is constitutional and what is not.”

Unfortunately despite Quebec’s ongoing teacher shortage, English schools in the province will still be subjected to Bill 21 pending appeal.

Carolyn Gehr, an Orthodox Jewish woman and teacher with the Montreal English School Board who wears and headscarf and submitted an affidavit with the other plaintiffs had some choice words about the legal decision keeping the law in force for now.

“I feel horrible for the prospective teachers who enthusiastically applied to the English school boards who desperately need them, only to find out in a day or two that their hopes were dashed yet again, and that this ruling does nothing for them for the foreseeable future. The fact that the government is fighting this so vociferously reinforces in me the idea that I’m not really wanted here, especially in that I’m only allowed in my job as I am because ‘Oncle Francois’ magnanimously grandfathered me in so as not to offend the sensibilities of people who don’t like to see someone fired for no reason.”

M. I. a Muslim teacher working in the private sector who no longer wears her hijab for personal reasons spoke of why she chose to take it off.

“I grew up in a moderately conservative Muslim family and the choice to wear the hijab was mine to make and I chose to wear it until about a year ago. Why I chose to take it off was a completely personal choice because I was no longer wearing it for religious reasons. It just provided me with a sense of comfort and not wearing it felt like going out without my pants on since I had worn it for so many years.”

On Bill 21, she says she and most of her community were very concerned. There was this feeling that this sort of law would never happen in Canada and most members have been directly or indirectly affected.

“I know the law adversely affects all religious communities but as a Muslim woman who used to wear the hijab my feelings are very strong when it comes to the effect the bill has on the women in my community. I find this law to be discriminatory, anti-feminist and anti-human rights. As a woman, I cannot accept that someone can have any say in how I choose to cover myself. I am well-educated and have never been forced by any part of my religion and can say for a fact that his holds true for most women in my community.”

M.I. says the Muslim community is one of the fastest growing minorities in Quebec and that the law, like the hijab ban in France, is just a way of keeping minorities under control. She points out that this open hostility has just led to more anger and extremism among Muslims in France than ever before. Adding, like Carolyn Gehr, that Bill 21 made her feel she didn’t belong.

“I am many things: Iranian, Muslim, Canadian and a Montrealer but a Quebecker I am not. I no longer feel any pride in that.”

Francois Legault and the Coalition Avenir du Quebec and others with clear and open hostility towards visible and religious minorities in Quebec represent the worst elements of Canadian and Quebec society. A society that buys into the narrative of white victimhood and denial of a more honest history that includes everyone who contributed to the great society we have today.

In metropolitan areas like Montreal, more and more people find this attitude dangerous and even laughable and recognize that those who support it can either embrace the diversity that enriches our food and other aspects of our culture, or die with the dinosaurs. That said, let the government know their decision to appeal is a frivolous waste of Quebec tax dollars when there’s a pandemic and a housing shortage to address. The fight’s only over when we the people say it is, so keep fighting.

Featured image of the Palais de Justice in Montreal by Jeangagnon via Wikimedia Commons

Osheaga and Île Soniq, two huge music festivals run by Evenko that have become summer staples, won’t happen in 2021 as planned. Instead, the 15th anniversary of Osheaga will take place July 29th-31st, 2022 and Île Soniq will happen August 5th and 6th, both at Parc Jean-Drapeau.

This is “due to an ever-evolving COVID-19 situation and our commitment to the safety and health of festival attendees,” according to organizers in social media posts announcing the postponement.

With hopes that the COVID-19 situation would improve and everything would be back to normal or at least semi-normal by late July, Evenko scheduled these events and even announced the Osheaga headliners late last year. Unfortunately, there is still much uncertainty over where we will be pandemic-wise by then, and festivals like this can’t be planned on short notice.

Osheaga founder and Evenko Senior Vice-President Nick Farkas explained in the same Facebook and Instagram posts sent out this morning:

“We’ve been working since last summer to try to deliver the full festival experience to fans. We are keenly aware of how important live music is to our fans and our city, and how much everyone misses it. We want to be back there in the midst of it too, but the truth is it takes several months to line up the various elements to create a festival, and with the current uncertainty, we don’t have that luxury. We remain hopeful that the situation will improve enough.”

– Nick Farkas

Evenko’s other summer events, such as Heavy Montreal, hadn’t already been scheduled for 2021. Those who purchased tickets for the 2020 or 2021 events can have those tickets honoured at the 2022 events or get a full refund.

Featured image from Osheaga 2018 by Joe McLean

Two nights, two very different protests. Since Quebec Premier François Legault’s 8pm curfew took effect in Montreal (also in Laval) on Sunday, our city has seen two nights of protest with only two things in common: opposition to the Provincial Government’s “preventative measure” of moving the curfew start time from 9:30pm back to 8pm and fireworks.

I wasn’t at either protest, so I’ve cobbled together what happened from various social media posts, livestreams and mainstream media accounts.

Let’s recap:

The Sunday Night Old Montreal Shitshow

Sunday night’s protest started off on a promising note, with hundreds of people, roughly around 1000 in total, arriving at the Old Port just as the curfew began, itself an act of defiance. For over 30 minutes, the atmosphere was largely celebratory though defiant., people danced, some set off fireworks and the Montreal Police (SPVM) stayed a few blocks away.

Then, some people lit a bench in Place Jacques Cartier and some trash cans on fire. The SPVM moved in, fired teargas (good thing people have masks at the ready, or are already wearing them, these days) and most of the crowd dispersed.

Of course, not everyone did and that’s the part of the story that many are now familiar with. Things turned into a riot as some smashed the windows of local businesses who were already reeling from the loss of the tourism industry and probably weren’t fans of the curfew either.

There were right-wing agitators in the crowd, specifically Ezra Levant, Keean Bexte and their Rebel Media crew. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re pro-pipeline to the point of trying to ambush interview Greta Thunberg and while this was an anti-curfew protest, these guys are against any type of COVID health measures, even masks.

Now whether, as the Mayor’s Deputy Chief of Staff thinks, it was these guys who caused all the rioting, or if it was agent provocateurs, or if it was just Montreal once again being Montreal at its most unattractive (or a combination of the three), things really went off message fast Sunday night.

Monday Night’s Downtown Cat and Mouse

Monday night was a completely different story. There were no smashed windows, no fires. And, of course, this was the protest the SPVM moved to shut down almost immediately.

Originally also planned for the Old Port, the protest quickly diverted to Downtown Montreal. As they made their way up from Place du Canada, the police ordered them to disperse, and disperse they did.

What followed was a game of cat and mouse with the cops up and down city streets. Some even set off small fireworks.

This group, by all accounts, was comprised largely of teenagers and young adults. They wore masks. Simply being out after 8pm was their protest.

Messaging Moving Forward

If there’s one thing I think these protests need moving forward, and by all accounts, they will be moving forward, like every night is what I heard, is solid messaging. And that messaging needs to be specific.

This is against the curfew. It’s against the very idea that a curfew can actually protect against the spread of COVID.

More specifically, it’s against the seemingly arbitrary manner in which the Legault Government chose to move the curfew back to 8 pm in Montreal and Laval while admitting that it wasn’t necessary. Restricting people’s ability to leave their homes should always be a last resort and only done when absolutely necessary, not an afterthought or something implemented as a precaution.

If protesting a 90 minute shift in a curfew seems a little too specific for protest, remember that the 2012 Student Strike was sparked by a marginal tuition increase and it brought down a government. If you focus on the details, the underlying message comes to the surface. In 2012, it was the heartless arrogance of the state, in 2021, it can be the same thing.

Protests always see different groups trying to attach themselves to something that has coverage. Sometimes that works, this time it won’t.

Yes, Climate Change is real, but that’s not the point here and neither is saving the whales. If you keep things focused and specific, you can also keep out all the anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers and assorted anti-science types who would only co-opt and damage such an important message, just as those breaking the store windows did on Sunday.

“Liberté” is a solid and downright sexy thing to chant, but please remember that COVID-19 is still a very real threat. Freedom from arbitrary and ineffective government restrictions is one thing, but Karen still needs to wear a mask at the grocery store.

It’s also important that while, from the looks of it, this is youth-led (or at least it was on Monday night), it doesn’t come across as just “the kids are fed up.” I’m 43 and I’m fed up, too, even if I’m not out there with you.

We’ve abided by these restrictions and adapted to them. But this last one is just government arrogance.

If we stay focused on that and the messaging solidifies, we may win this one.

As of Sunday (April 11), Montreal and Laval will join other Quebec Red Zones with a curfew once again running from 8pm to 5am. The government had moved the start time of the curfew to 9:30pm on March 17th.

Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement late this afternoon in a press conference joined by Christian Dubé, Minister of Health and Social Services, and National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda. The Premier said that this is a preventative measure.

While transmission is still high in the Greater Montreal Region, cases haven’t spiked here to the extent that the government thought they would and to the extent that they have in other Red Zones such as Quebec City, Lévis and Gatineau, which are currently on lockdown. Unlike those parts of Quebec, schools in Montreal will remain open, although not on a full-time basis.

The government closed gyms in Montreal and Laval and announced it at this past Tuesday’s press conference.

Also announced on Tuesday: People taking part in outdoor group activities with people from different households such as walking or sports must do so masked. Of course, if you sit down outside, two meters apart, you can remove the masks.

Legault didn’t give a date for when these new restrictions would be eased.

Is it that time again? We’ll, at the time of writing this, not for a few months. The 2021 Montreal Municipal Election is on November 7th, but the campaigning has already begun.

So, with that in mind, we’re launching our 2021 Montreal Municipal Election Poll. And the focus of the poll is the Mayoral race.

We’re making all declared candidates for Mayor of Montreal choices and will be adding new candidates if and when they join. So yes, you can switch your vote right up until the poll closes on November 5th at midnight.

We’ve also added an Undecided category as well as None of the Above. If you make up your mind later, or a new candidate piques your interest, please feel free to change your vote.

If you’re planning on voting for a City Councilor or Borough Mayor from a different party than your choice for Mayor of Montreal, that would be a split ticket in the actual election, but not here. This vote is only for the city-wide Mayor.

The winner of this poll gets the official endorsement of FTB readers and a post to announce it. While we do these polls for all elections where Montrealers can vote (Municipal, Provincial, Federal) and even some where most of them can’t (US Primaries), the 2017 Montreal Municipal Election Poll was the first time FTB readers selected the same candidate that the general electorate did.

So have your say below (or in the sidebar of any page on this site):

Who do you support as the next Mayor of Montreal?

On Tuesday March 17, 2021 a white gunman walked into three massage parlors in Atlanta, Georgia and killed eight people, most of them Asian women. On March 18, 2021, a thirty-nine year old man was attacking people of Asian descent in San Francisco, starting with an 83 year old Chinese man. The attacker’s second victim was 76 year old Xiao Zhen Xie, who grabbed the first stick she found and fought back, resulting in her attacker having to be brought to the hospital on a stretcher.

Outrage exploded online in response, and hashtags like #StopAsianHate and #stopwhiteterrorism began trending. As an Asian Canadian, an artist, and an activist, I simply rolled my eyes and sighed.

Though the Chinese have been in North America since before Confederation, Asian Canadians are no strangers to racism. I’ve been fetishized when online dating due to misguided notions of Asian women as exotic and submissive. I have white relatives who refer to Filipinos – my and my mother’s people- as “the help”. Stereotypes about the alleged dangers of MSG, the exotic foods we eat, and myths about Asian bodies continue to exist among whites, even while they appropriate our fashions, our cooking methods and our fighting styles.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has only made things worse. It’s not just violent assaults like what happened in Atlanta and San Francisco. It’s the vandalism of Montreal’s Chinatown. It’s white vegans like Bryan Adams blaming Asian meat eating for the spread of the virus. It’s politicians calling COVID-19 the “China Virus” and “Kung Flu”. It’s harassment in the streets. It’s the refusal to support Asian businesses. For those of us who are mixed, like myself, it’s the refusal to accept “Canadian” as an answer when asked what we are. Whatever form it takes, it’s a pathetic attempt by whites to terrorize people and remind us of a truth we are well-aware of:

That no matter what we do, no matter how long we’ve been in Canada, no matter how well we speak English and French, no matter how much money we put into the economy, we will never be acknowledged as Canadians because we’re not white or white-passing.

It must be said that those attacking Asians are weak, pathetic, and stupid. They are weak and pathetic because those committing anti-Asian hate crimes are largely targeting women and the elderly, probably thinking they’d be an easy mark.

They are stupid because they cannot tell the difference between the Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Koreans, Vietnamese etc., and are particularly dumb because they think that myself and the rest of the community will be polite in the face of all the abuse. The fact that an elderly Chinese woman with no grasp of English was able to put her attacker in the hospital is proof we won’t go quietly. When I saw that article I smiled because I know my mother and late grandmother would have responded in the exact same way: by fighting back.

It is reassuring that most responses to the hate crimes have been outraged and supportive, but it’s not enough. If you don’t speak out against hate crimes, you are complicit in perpetuating them, and you leave us, Canadians and Americans, to fight alone.

Speak out if you hear someone using anti-Asian slurs or speaking of Filipino immigrants as a commodity that can be bought and sold. Call out cultural appropriation and whitewashing when you see or hear it, and support organizations like the Center for Research Action on Race Relations that promote racial equality and combat racism in Canada.

That said: if you are fine with all of the harassment and assault and you truly believe Asians are to blame for this pandemic, do us a favour. Put down the soy sauce, the Sriraracha, sesame oil, and the Sushi. Quit the martial arts class you’re taking, give away your Bruce Lee movies and posters, and avoid our markets. You do not get to profit off the contributions of Asians in North America if you won’t treat us with the same dignity you expect from others.

We’re better off without you, and we’re not going anywhere.

Featured Image: Screengrab from WXIA Atlanta

We seem to be getting more live art and music (virtually, of course) as the weeks go by and the weather gets nicer. This week we’ve got a couple of live events and a band formed during the pandemic’s first single release.

Let’s get started:

BIG BANG & The Aussenwelt Collective Stream Virtual Nuit Blanche Performances as Part of Art Souterrain

This Saturday night is Nuit Blanche, the showcase event of the annual Montréal en lumière Festival. Unlike every other year, though, the Metro won’t be open all night, museums and galleries won’t be receiving throngs of people in the wee hours of the morning and crowds of people won’t be packing the Quartier des Spectacles to enjoy tir sur glace or a ride on the winter Ferris wheel…because of, well, the cufrew.

Nuit Blanche will still be happening virtually and one of its most popular attractions is back: Art Souterrain. The installation part, featuring art in Montreal’s underground city, will still be happening as of April 10th, but tomorrow night, they will be streaming performances from the Aussenwelt Collective and Stéphanie Décourteille’s BIG BANG dance formation live.

Violet Hébert and Joseph Blais will provide the musical accompanyment for these three performances. Here’s a promo video to give you an idea of what it might look like:

Art Souterrain, the Aussenwelt Collective and BIG BANG will stream an evening of multidisciplinary performances Saturday, March 13, beginning at 8pm, on the Art Souterrain YouTube Channel

The Liquor Store Play Cabaret Lion d’Or Virtually

If you thought to yourself “Wouldn’t it be nice to catch a Big Band playing Cabaret Lion d’Or again?” well, this Sunday you can, virtually, of course.

The Big Band in question is The Liquor Store and they will be performing at the aforementioned very stylish venue on Ontario East as part of Indie Montreal’s Les dimanches couvre-fun series. It’s a chance to catch not only the music part of going to a show, but the venue part as well, without leaving home or watching an old video.

Speaking of an old video, for now, here is the same band playing in a different venue before all the lockdowns:

Indie Montreal presents The Liquor Store Live from Cabaret Lion d’Or as part of Les dimanches couvre-fun, Sunday, March 14th at 8pm. Tickets available through ThePointOfSale.com

Scarlet Wives Debut Single Dream Funeral

When two musicians have their tour plans scrapped due to a pandemic and then have their rhythm guitarist and drummer drop out, they could just sit at home and wait or form a new band with a new drummer and write and record music. Alice (vocals, guitar) and Mike (bass) chose the latter when they formed Scarlet Wives with Zenab (drums).

They also joined up with three other musicians and sound engineers to form Lack Haüs records. Scarlet Wives’ first single is also the label’s first. Called Dream Funeral, it was released March 5th and the next one is due out in April.

They describe the song as “a heavy-hitting dose of fairy grunge” but you really should just give it a listen at one of the links below or check out this teaser video (*** WARNING: Video may trigger seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy):

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Scarlet Wives (@scarletwives)

Scarlet Wives’ first track Dream Funeral is available on (and subsequent tracks will be available on) Amazon Music, Bandcamp and most major platforms

Featured Image: Scarlet Wives

If you know of an event that you feel should be covered, please contact arts@forgetthebox.net or music@forgetthebox.net

No promises but we’ll do our best

Quebecers outside of the Greater Montreal Region will see some COVID-19 restrictions loosen when they pass into an Orange Zone after March Break (so Monday, March 8th). Montrealers and people living in Laval, Montérégie, the Laurentians and the Lanaudière region still have to wait at least a month before they leave the Red Zone.

Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement about the new Orange Zones in a press conference late this afternoon joined by Christian Dubé, Minister of Health and Social Services and National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda. He didn’t initially give a timeline for when Montreal would leave the Red Zone.

When asked by reporters, though, Legault said that while COVID numbers haven’t been increasing, new strains of the virus are now present in Montreal, which might make cases and hospitalizations rise again in the region. He feels that successfully vaccinating the most vulnerable, which is supposed to take a few weeks, will create a climate where restrictions can be loosened in the Greater Montreal Region as well.

In Orange Zones, gyms and show venues can re-open, restaurants can once again welcome dine-in customers and houses of worship can have a maximum of 25 people for services. Home visits, except for when someone lives alone, are still banned.

Legault says the government will be adding sports options in Red Zones and that he is looking into possibly re-opening show venues and increasing capacity at places of worship there as well.

The curfew will remain in effect across Quebec, but only begin at 9:30pm in Orange Zones while still running from 8pm to 5am in Red Zones.

Jason C. McLean and Special Guest Dawn McSweeney go through the week’s big news stories:

Quebec Premier François Legault injects himself into the campus “free speech” debate and considers restricting English school enrollment.

What Montreal events and festivals will go online in 2021 and which will happen in person?

Ted Cruz leaves Texas freezing.

Justin Trudeau’s new gun control measures.

Dawn Mc Sweeney is an author and FTB contributor, follow her on Twitter @mcmoxy

Jason C. McLean is the Editor-in-Chief of ForgetTheBox.net, follow him on Twitter @jasoncmclean

Since both of this week’s entries relate, either directly or indirectly, to Nuit Blanche, it’s probably a good idea to start by briefly explaining what Nuit Blance is, for those who don’t know.

In a nutshell, one night a year, most museums and galleries, some other businesses and the Montreal Metro stay open all night. There are parties, events in Quartier des Spectacles and the Old Port and even the Biodome gets involved.

This year, it’s not possible for most people to be out of their homes after 8pm due to the curfew, let alone on the metro at 3am, but some of the key Nuit Blanche events have found their way online.

Let’s get started:

Art Souterrain Festival is Back Online and in Physical Space

Every year, the Art Souterrain Festival is the highlight of many Montrealers’ Nuit Blanche. This event normally sees several artists fill Montreal’s Underground City with installations and perform live art shows.

This year, of course, will be different. Roughly 30 artists will take part in the festival’s two parts:

From tomorrow (Friday) until April 30th, you can take in free online activities such as recordings of performances, podcasts, round table discussions and artist portraits (with quite a few of them happening next Saturday, aka Nuit Blanche 2021). Then, from April 10th to 30th, the regular public installation part of the festival will take over the Underground City.

The 13th Edition of Art Souterrain begins online Friday, February 19th on the Art Souterrain website

Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything from the MAC is Now Online

Speaking of Nuit Blanche, Back in 2017, that’s when we covered (and very much enjoyed) the Leonard Cohen exhibit A Crack in Everything at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC). It was an immersive and impressive multimedia experience and a fitting local tribute to our legend who had passed away the year before.

Now, while the MAC is open once again to the general public for in-person visits, they have decided to bring back the Cohen exhibit for anyone (in Canada, that is) at any time with a free virtual version of it. It obviously won’t be the same as exploring the exhibit in person, but given the amount of recorded video and audio content in it, it should transition well to this format.

Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything Virtual Exhibit is available online for free until February 22, 2024. You can explore it on the MAC website

This week we’ve got a film and arts festival dedicated to LGBTQ+ works that highlight members of Black communities, a music video premier from a local alternative folk rock group and a Valentine’s market from the people behind POP Montreal.

Let’s get started:

The Massimadi Afro LGBTQ+ Film and Arts Festival

We’re in the middle of Black History Month and the Massimadi Afro LGBTQ+ Film and Arts Festival is set to return for its 13th edition. This year, the theme is, appropriately, Resistance.

With all that is going on south of the border and around the world, resisting is key. The festival also plans to resist any negative effects COVID might have on their ability to reach audiences by making the entire event free and online.

With seven feature films 23 short films and representation from nine countries, the conversation is sure to continue. There will also be found tables, a comedy show and even speed dating.

The 13th Edition of the Massimadi Afro LGBTQ+ Film and Arts Festival runs February 12 – March 12. For the complete schedule and more info, please visit massimadi.ca

Aquarius Dreams Release Music Video for Flora’s Earthtones

Montreal-based alternative folk rock group Aquarius Dreams released their lastest EP Flora’s Earthtones way back in pre-COVID 2019. While they are planning to go on a “reformative hiatus” and then re-emerge when the pandemic is done, they are first releasing a video for the EP’s titular track this weekend.

Directed by Callum Sheedy, the video “alludes to the degradation of the relationship between humanity and nature, the dance between moral volition and action.” Part of it is also clearly shot on Mount Royal, which always leads to some spectacular visuals.

Puces POP is Back Online for Valentine’s Day

The annual POP Montreal music festival is all set for an in-person edition this fall, but while the curfew and other COVID restrictions are still in effect, their popular Puces POP market has reinvented itself, just in time for Valentine’s Day. They have an online catalogue available until March 1st.

You can buy products from over 70 local artisans. We’re talking body products, clothing, jewelry and much more.

You can find it all at PucesPop.com

Featured Image: Screenshot from Flora’s Earthtones by Aquarius Dreams

If you know of an event that you feel should be covered, please contact arts@forgetthebox.net or music@forgetthebox.net

No promises but we’ll do our best

Mylène Chicoine is no stranger to horror. She founded Festival de la Bête Noire as a way to share what helps her to de-stress.

While some turn to comedy and laughter, for Chicoine and those like her, it’s horror and horror-themed art that allow them a form of catharsis, freeing themselves from their demons by confronting them head on.

Festival de la Bête Noire is a horror theatre festival that normally has hosted shows that audiences take in on site and in-person since 2018. But the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a great toll on the arts.

Theaters are closed, and gatherings that would allow for live shows are banned for now. For those needing to keep art and culture alive, the pandemic and the ensuing public health measures have presented a lot of challenges and the name of the game has been adapt or die.

Festival de la Bête Noire has decided to go online this year and I spoke with Mylène Chicoine about what that means.

“We’re not doing in it an actual physical space,” she said. “It’s a multimedia online event from people’s living rooms. We’ve removed the physical aspect completely.”

In order to keep the authenticity of live theater consistent with the spirit of past festivals, Chicoine and her team decided to have as little postproduction as possible, meaning that recorded shows should try to minimize editing and video effects after recording.

“We are NOT a movie festival, we are a THEATRE festival. We still want to see theatre, and performance, and live art even though it’s technically not live.”

When asked about the response to the change in format this year, she said most of the responses have been extremely positive, admitting that Bête Noire almost didn’t happen this year due to the pandemic. The festival happened because of the outpouring of support from the theatre community and its fans.

“We had a lot of demand from the community: Are we doing it this year? Are we doing it? Is it going to happen? We need it. The biggest motivation for the team was the community wants it so we’re going to give it to them.”

Festival de la Bête Noire has 16 shows this year. Two of the shows are mixed shows featuring separate performances within a single show.

The virtual festival has a few alumni, including the The Malicious Basement, Quagmire Productions, and Marissa Blair. In the name of transparency, I myself am acting and handling design for Quagmire’s Poe in the Snow.

Chicoine says that festival alumni were given an extra week to apply knowing that they are faithful participants who have provided good content in the past.

“We like to have repeat performers because it gives them a name and a platform that they need.”

The virtual format has not been without its challenges. Many artists expressed concerns about the ban on post-production, claiming that the festival was trying to restrict their art.

“We don’t want to restrict their art, we want to restrict their technology, that’s the big difference. If you’re in a venue, you’re not using a green screen, you wouldn’t use one in your living room either. We don’t want to make it look like a movie, but of course we’ve had to be a bit more flexible, especially with the new lockdown.”

Chicoine says the festival’s limits on technology this year were among some of the biggest challenges for performers. It forced performers to stretch their creative muscles and think outside the box.

Other challenges for the Festival de la Bête Noire were unfortunate realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. People involved with the companies and performers or their loved ones were exposed to the virus and either got sick and/or were forced to self-isolate. The pandemic itself resulted in some theatre companies dropping out of the festival entirely.

“We understand completely that these things are going to happen and we have had production meetings with every company that has required one to formulate a different kind of plan, whether it’s an extension, being more flexible on technology, but unfortunately we did lose a couple of companies to COVID.”

Most of the companies that dropped out were outside of Montreal and could not participate due to the pandemic, while some participants even got sick and died. It has been really upsetting for everyone involved with Bête Noire, but Chicoine and her team anticipated this happening.

Festival de la Bête Noire 2021 is fulfilling its mandate by giving artists and performers a platform to explore the horror genre by performing, creating and watching, and being a part of something, bringing people together in a socially distant way.

When I asked Chicoine if there were any advantages to going virtual, she pointed to fact that it allowed for more international entries, speaking of participating companies in the US and as far away as Japan. Chicoine mentioned The Peony Lantern by The Yokohama Group, a multimedia performance that takes place in the World Peace Theatre in Kawasaki, Japan.

Given the unpredictability of the pandemic, Mylène Chicoine is preparing for disaster, but it has not dampened her excitement for the shows on offer this year. When asked if there were any shows she was particularly excited about, she mentioned Pento by Mad Paradox, a show about mental health issues.

As for the technicalities regarding the accessing the shows, Chicoine and her team demurred from using sites like YouTube and TikTok because they’re too restrictive. In order to avoid the censorship that comes with those sites, all ticket holders will be sent a Google Drive link to their show which gives them one week to watch it at their convenience. Viewers don’t need a Gmail account to access the link.

Festival de la Bête Noire is running virtually from February 17, 2021 to March 15, 2021. For more info check out LaBeteNoirFest.com