In 1966, Quebec filmmaker Claude Jutra made a documentary on a new phenomenon that had taken over public spaces in Montreal: skateboarding. With his over-the-shoulder camera, Jutra followed youths through parks and streets, playing hide-and-seek with the police.
Almost 50 years later, the NFB, which produced one of the first films on this sport, asked fourteen filmmakers to revisit Jutra’s film, Rouli-roulant known as The Devil’s Toy in the English-language version. In Victoriaville, Singapore, Los Angeles, Johannesburg, New York, Athens, and Lyon, these filmmakers reinterpret Jutra’s film in The Devil’s Toy Remix.
Quebec filmmaker Myriam Verreault, who co-directed À l’ouest de Pluton with Henry Bernadet in 2008, revisited Jutra’s short documentary with a very personal with wry humour. As soon as you arrive on the web site for The Devil’s Toy Remix, you can view a shortened version of the original film since “apparently, web users short attention span compelled us to webify the original,” jokes Myriam Verreault. While most other films on the subject take the form of documentary, Myriam Verreault went further by filming women who practise this sport that is almost an exclusively male preserve.
“In the original film, Jutra played with the tropes of fiction, including in the voice-over narration, which combines authoritative speech and ironic commentary,” says the filmmaker. “He managed to create cinéma vérité through a tightly scripted approach.”
Her film begins with a confrontation between young men and women as the latter move in on the place where the former were skateboarding. “Some of the boys came for the shoot while the others were bothered by our presence,” she recounts. “But in the end I think they had fun and were proud to take part in the shoot.”
What has changed in nearly five decades? The difference in technology between then and now is clear, but the themes remain the same or almost,” states Myriam Verreault.
“In Jutra’s version, the youngsters were very care-free. They didn’t wear crash helmets,” she says. “Today, we’re paranoid about safety. Some things progress but not necessarily for the best.”