This is a unique film set in the Bellechasse region of Quebec, where we explore the cultural and historical tradition of Demolition Derby that has been part of the cultural fabric of the small town for decades. La démolition familiale has been ten years in the making and a personal and emotional project for filmmaker Patrick Damien, who brings us a very interesting story about a community that continues to follow its passion for decades and through generations.
We are introduced to Christopher and Markel, who are cousins and equally passionate about pursuing Demolition Derby. Christopher has had a long relationship with the sport. His father would bring him to events and training sessions before his sudden death because of a heart attack. This left Christopher abandoned to pursue his dream in solitude.
Marika, under the mentorship of her father David (also a close friend of Christopher’s father), desires to break the gender stereotype and get behind the wheel to be part of the Demolition Derby.
At the heart of the story is Christopher and Marika, who come from different experiences, yet have the same drive to excel at this very high-energy and high-risk sport. Throughout the film various family members experience a mix of pride and apprehension of what this means in terms of safety (surprisingly more for Marika than Christopher) and the future of these youngsters. It is telling that the first time Marika shows up as a participant, the organizer is surprised that a young woman is going to take the wheel.
The first outing that Marika has when behind the wheel has emotions running high, yet she is able to overcome the obstacles of the terrain and come out victorious. Christopher, for his part, excels just the same and wins a trophy like his father did many years ago. The filmmaker uses archival footage in key moments of the film, as we peek into the lives of these people and their families. This is a film about the dreams and aspirations of young people, the emotional journeys of the families who surround them set in the backdrop of the countryside.
The constant smashing of cars into one another did get a bit jarring and also made me think a few times what the purpose of it all was. But leaving all conditioned judgement aside, the film is thoughtfully shot, interestingly presented and does provide a very curious insight into a small community and their large, life-like dreams, along with the corresponding reality.
Following its success in the festival circuit, La démolition familiale will be making its way to a wider audience soon.