Toronto Sun, Friday, March 25, 2005

Russian across Canada

PLOT: An innocent guy from Abitibi travels to Quebec City to see his girlfriend, but along the way meets a prostitute on the run and winds up fleeing the Russian mob. Culture clash writ huge.

Toronto Sun

There are seven different languages on the go in Hold On To Your Hat! (Attache Ta Tuque!), a Canadian film about innocence and experience that has various characters speaking French, English, Russian, Algonquin, Attikmek, Innu and Montagnais.

Sam (Wally Cheezo) is an Anishnabe living in his native village in Abitibi. His girlfriend is off in Quebec City going to school, and Sam's mother urges him to visit her and "Check out a chance for the good life."

On the long drive to Quebec City, Sam makes a stop with fateful consequences. A Russian woman named Tania (loulia Volkova) hides in the back of his truck. Tania is a prostitute on the run from Russian mobsters.

She and Sam become friends, which leads to some delightful Russian/Canadian cultural exchanges. (Putin and poutine, for example: There is a difference.) And Tania explains the ancient connection between Russians and Canadians.

Eventually, the bad guys catch up with Tania and she and Sam are on the run. Sam, now mixed up in a mess of murder and drug dealing, drives far, far away to La Romaine with Tania. This part of their trip underlines their growing attachment to each other and the consequences of that.

Once at their destination, Sam and Tania continue to discover things about each other. The story has an unsettling and ambiguous ending.

Hold On To Your Hat! is an odd and uniquely Canadian road movie filmed in the Anishnabe, Innu and Wendate communities of Quebec. The film is sometimes technically amateurish and the acting veers into melodrama, but the humour is endearing and the cultural elements are often fascinating. Certainly, there is nothing else at the movies like Hold On To Your Hat!

Hold On To Your Hat!
1 hour, 38 minutes

Starring: Wally Cheezo, loulia Volkova, Brenda Papatie
Director: Denis Boivin
Rated: 14A

Small, weird, oddly endearing movie about an innocent Anishnabe man who meets a wordly Russian prostitute. Technically amateurish, but the storytelling is magical.

- Liz Braun (

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