Aux rythmes du monde : couleur sur fond blanc


Region: Quebec

Year of Production: 2019

Duration: 48 minutes

The City of Saguenay is located 200 kilometres northeast of Quebec City. Far from the major centres, some say it’s closed in on itself. And yet, public response to the Festival international des rythmes du monde was immediate. For 10 full days, the city’s Racine Street is simply bursting with colours. The djembes resonate, the hips swing, the eyes light up, the spirit is lifted. This small city, 99% white and Catholic, opens its heart and welcomes cultures from around the world. The festival grows year after year by welcoming an ever-growing number of prestigious guests. Initially, the groups were often made up of immigrants living in Montreal. To date, Wyclef Jean, Angélique Kidjo, Rachid Taha, and Tiken Jah Fakoly have brought their music to Saguenay.

Robert Hakim had the idea of a short-run summer event celebrating openness more than 15 years ago. But after all this time, one wonders to what extent his event has contributed to really bringing people closer together?

We go out to meet with immigrants to the region to find the answer. They’re in the best position to help us better understand the dynamics of Hakim’s event.

Certainly not everything is rosy in the Kingdom of Saguenay. In 2014 and 2017, a ‘Saguenay White City’ poster was put up at the entrance to the city and at the cemetery of the neighbouring municipality, where a burial ground reserved for Muslims was being planned. Far-right groups are also making themselves heard on local social media. A bus driver originally from the Ivory Coast recently complained of being a victim of racist insults from his passengers. The Mosque in Chicoutimi was sprayed with pig’s blood in 2013. We’ll meet with the victims and also try to talk to those who promote racist ideology. Whether they have their faces uncovered or not is irrelevant. What we want to understand is the logic behind their message.

Aside from these unhappy circumstances, there are also some beautiful stories to tell. Like Rodrigo’s, a native-born Brazilian who now calls Arvida home. While waiting for the job of his dreams, he plans on marrying his girlfriend. We’ll also meet Marie Fall, a professor at UQAC specializing in Living Together and whose successful integration is proof that it can be done. And we’ll drop in to the Rodi Restaurant, a pizzeria on Rue Racine, where immigrant workers congregate.

Through this investigation, we’ll be able to see how our view of the event that Robert Hakim founded has changed. Is integration easier today with people around the world killing each other over religious and racist issues? Over and above the reggae, raï, or merengue beats that resonate for 10 days in August, the Festival international des rythmes du monde will no longer sound the same to many of those living in the region.


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