Montreal Film Journal


For years, Daytona has hosted (in)famous Spring Break celebrations where thousands of American and Canadian college kids come to get drunk, get high and get laid. This new documentary depicts the Daytona experience of half a dozen young québecois who were sold a trip with the idea that they’d be free to do everything, hopefully while wasted and naked. Yet as they soon realize, their American dreams of bliss and debauchery don’t quite match the reality.

If you’re a loser here, chances are you’ll still be a loser in Florida, right? If you don’t speak a lick of English, how do you expect to woo American babes, however drunk they might be? And if you end up spending most of your time smoking chronic in your hotel room, why take a 30 hours bus ride to do it?

So we meet Sébas, sort of a cross between the Americans-idolizing Elvis Gratton and Léolo’s brother who covers himself with muscles but remains weak and insecure; Fortin, a pothead white hip hop kid; Jessica, an 18 year old willing to make out with 30 guys in a row; Phil and Jo, rather dorky guys from the south shore of Québec city who hope to have fun and make some friends during their vacation; and the gloriously careless Lapointe, who made me laugh nearly every time he opened his mouth, even though it’s obvious that much of his antagonistic ranting is just a way to hide his vulnerability.

“Daytona” is the first film by amerika orkestra, a Montreal-based collective that wants to create a new way of making movies, with each crew member playing an equally essential part in the process, like the musicians in a band. Director Martin, Producer Éloïse, cinematographer Mathieu, sound designer Amélie and editor JF all do splendid work and there is indeed a very cohesive feel to the picture.

Unlike the phony, MTVed mediocrity of last year’s “The Real Cancun”, “Daytona” is infinitely more honest and thoughtful, and it’s a surprisingly well crafted piece that’s sometimes more like a tone poem than a straight documentary. It benefits grandly from the post-rock score by the Chic Chien Orkestra, which gives the film an evocative, almost epic feel. The music is reminiscent of the work of godspeed you! black emperor, in fact the movie itself is not unlike the hypnotic little films that gy!be project during their live concerts. You could also think of this as a cousin of The Cinematic Orchestra’s brilliant appropriation of Man with a Movie Camera.

Contemplative, melancholy but also hilarious at times, “Daytona” is a fascinating snapshot of today’s Quebec youth.

Opens February 20th at the Ex-Centris.