What do the Smurfs, Vin Diesel and Stephen Spielberg have in common?

They’re all planning to film in Montreal this year.

Diesel, in fact, is here now, reviving the third installment of his Riddick Chronicles. This one, called Dead Man Stalking, is filming mostly indoors at Mel’s Cite du Cinema in Montreal’s industrial district between the Champlain and Victoria bridges.

Probably a good thing, because it has been snowing non-stop here in Montreal for the past 24 hours. I’m here, staying at Marriott’s Chateau Champlain, to attend Montreal En Lumiere, a 11-day winter festival with arts exhibitions, live performances, international chefs, light shows and tonight’s big event—-Nuit Blanche, an all-night party than runs until 6 tomorrow morning.

I’m told there will be dancing, a giant Ferris wheel, an ice lounge, life-sized Snakes and Ladders, a 330-foot slide, drummers from South Africa, classes in bottle juggling, gourmet Belgium chocolate makers, comedians, costumed street performers, tours of Egyptian mummies and more.

I knew I was going to like this place on my first day here when, walking down Sainte-Catherine Street, I was invited to participate in a student protest. More than 10,000 students (someone estimated 43,000) were carrying signs, wearing red stripes of paint across their faces and vehemently showing their opposition to the government’s plan to double tuition from $2200 to $3800 over the next five years.

As much as I love a good demonstration, it was hard to feel too much sympathy as my daughter, who is going to college next year, will face annual tuition in the neighborhood of $50,000.

Still, you gotta love the passion of the Quebecois–be it student protestors blocking Jacques Cartier Bridge, one of the island’s main thoroughfares, right before rush hour to their love of gastronomy to their arts.

Look for stories over the next week about this passionate city. For now, though, I’ve got to run. Nuit Blanche is about to begin.