If you’re interested in Canadian history, watch Expo 67: Mission Impossible, a new documentary about the seminal Montreal exposition during Canada’s centennial celebration. Filled with archival footage of both the behind-the-scenes planning and the actual event, the documentary is an interesting reflection of the ill-advised and hasty planning that almost imploded Expo 67 before it happened. Fortunately for the filmmakers, many of Expo 67’s planners are still alive and are interviewed for the documentary.

Interestingly, 1967’s exposition was originally awarded to Moscow, but when the Soviet’s plans crumbled, the exposition was shifted to Montreal, the runner up. The federal government was eager to host the celebration in Quebec during Canada’s centennial year, and photos show the quick, ad hoc decisions that then-prime minister Lester Pearson and his cabinet made, including setting aside insufficient funding before adequate plans were made. (Torontonians will watch in delight as some archival footage of Hogtown is shown; apparently, many people felt that the festival should have been in Toronto.)

Different location options in Montreal were explored, including Mount Royal, but ultimately the decision was made to create artificial islands in the St. Lawrence, a project that the computers and planners at the time predicted would take several years too long to complete. Perhaps foolish and a little bit pollyanna, the builders decided to go ahead, despite all the obstacles, including building a subway extension to the site.

Archival footage of the completed site, especially while Expo 67 was open,  is fascinating to watch. Many people have seen Expo 67  in its current, post-apocalyptic appearance, so to see many of the incredibly designed buildings full of people and bustling at the seams is a joy. It’s a callback to a different era. The Summer of Love was in 1967, so the colour images of people at Expo 67, which set attendance records that the planners weren’t expecting, is awe inspiring (look for the clip of large masses of people attempting to enter Montreal’s metro). Watch this documentary of a seminal event in Canadian history, if just to experience a simpler time in Canadian history, when ill planning and ideals created a six-month festival with a lasting legacy in Canadian lore.

Is Expo 67: Mission Impossible Essential Viewing?

Yes! The documentary recounts a Canadian legacy. So watch it and be engaged in interesting archival material that’ll blow you away.

Expo 67: Mission Impossible opens Friday, August 18, 2017 at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. Check their website for more information.

Expo 67: Mission Impossible Trailer