“Sortie 67″ – Having Hard Times
Directed by Bastien Jephté
Written by Bastien Jephté
It isn’t every day that you get to witness a film like Bastien Jephté’s Sortie 67 – a rough and raw film that looks into Montréal Nord / St-Michel gang fares. Montréal, a city in which crime films have generally surrounded its infamous biker wars, serves as a menacing backdrop where its citizens can only refer to it as a “jungle.” Made up of predominantly up and coming actors, Sortie 67 battles through its rawness, keeping the scale balanced although wavering at times between its oft-forced performances and genuine honesty.
We don’t have to think far back to find similarities to Jephté’s ç. In theaters worldwide, gang life has been a hot film topic and well documented. Films like John Singleton’s Boyz N the Hood marked the beginning of a new era of street films, at times both romanticizing the life of a G whilst also pointing a finger. America has a gang problem and the film world has fervently done its part in documenting it. Montréal, as any urban city, also has gang problems and yet there haven’t been any films documenting gang life (other than that of the bikers or the mafia.) This isn’t a black and white thing, nor a language battle as Sortie 67 habitually proves, but rather a slower understanding and refamiliarizing of Montreal’s current gang population. Mount-real is a city like none other and Bastien Jephté willfully shows that. Sortie 67, conveys that sense of isolation and desolation surrounding St-Michel. A city isolated from a larger entity, similar and yet completely different, much like Montréal is to Canada.
Following the life of Jecko, (later to be named Wacko-Jacko, played by Henri Pardo as an adult, Anthony Clevearuax as a teen and Shevon Jeremy Noëlas as a kid), Sortie 67 doesn’t take long to depict the hardships of growing up poor, black and without any options. Haunted by the brutal slaying of his mother, Jecko must come to terms with his new adopted life and the struggle to survive on and off the streets. After a brief incarceration, Jecko rejoins Pakko (Alain Lino Mic Eli Bastien) and Zophe (Edouard Fontaine) to work for the self-made gang lord and general knowledge dropper, Brooklyn (Benz Antoine). Jecko quickly earns his stripes, which digs him deeper into the muck. Driven by the rage he’s bottled up towards his father, Jecko awaits papa’s release, battling not only the world and gangs surrounding him but the blemishes left on his soul from being a killer.
Jecko’s struggle to find life amidst all the chaos is what drives this film. He is torn. His inability to embrace his life as a G pits him against his peers, while his rejection towrds the responsibilities of being a father to his child Naima (Vanessa Uguru John) or to his lover, Sonia (Jacquay Bidjeck), make Jecko’s inner battles on screen reign far truer than the superfluous “jungle out there” mentality the film sometimes creates. Lines like “a lion never asks if he’s a lion, he knows it” or similarly, in moments like when Jecko makes his initiation kill intimated by his peers from their chanting of “loser” and their dropping of the L’s (seriously is making your hand into the letter “L” gangsta?) seem forced and only serve to hit the nail on the head. This ultimately takes away from what does work for this film: it’s realness.
At one point Jecko reminds us that “things been hard.” This is a refreshing souvenir of what the film is really all about. The grittiest moments are taken right from our backyard. Hence scenes wherein a mini-F1 buggy mobile cruises for a pick-up seem out of place. Lest we forgot, the wheelchair bound bad guy named Blade (Danny Blanco) who comes across as a mix between Wesley Snipes in New jack City and Dr. Ernst Stavro Blofeld, as well as an omnipresent narration coming and going as it please, blur the reality of the film. Still emerging through its oddities and raw performances, Sortie 67 does manage to create a glimpse into a part of Montreal that is real and that is rough without romanticizing or being preachy, a trap that these films can get snarled in far too often.
– Detroit Burns