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Social Issues


The idea of grandparents as caregivers is nothing new. Grandparents are often the people that parents turn to when they need advice, help, childcare, and support. But what of the grandparents who have had to step in beyond the role of doting elders? GrandParenting takes an intimate look at the lives of several grandparents who have taken full time custody of their grandchildren, because their own children are unable to do so, due to problems that include drug addiction and mental or physical disorders. In Canada, some 70,000 grandchildren are being raised by their grandparents; it's a situation that occurs throughout the globe.

The File Folder

This is a story about Violet-Rose Pharoah, a former child in care. After she overcame the challenges of aging out, she started a blog “The File Folder” that allows other young people who were in care to share their experiences. Her goal is to collect 365 successful stories and motivate kids who are currently in care to make a more successful transition to adulthood.


The Ministry of Children and Family Development in British Columbia provides foster care for children from birth to the age of 19. But when youth reach their 19th birthday, the parental role of the government finishes abruptly – even though young people may not yet be ready for independent living. This automatic termination of support is known as “aging out.” Experts say that this is the most challenging moment in the lives of youth in care, and the weakest part of the foster-care system. This is a story about Violet-Rose Pharoah, a former child in care. After she overcame the challenges of aging out, she started a blog “The File Folder” that allows other young people who were in care to share their experiences. Her goal is to collect 365 successful stories with the goal of motivating kids who are currently in care to make a more successful transition to adulthood. She remembers how lonely and unsupported she felt when she was discharged from care, and she knows that even today many youth feel the same way. She hopes now to build up a network of online support, to show other kids that they are not alone.

The Third Element

Ben Viccari, media commentator, historian, and veteran journalist travels across the country examining the history and growth of Canada’s diverse ethnic media. From the earliest Icelandic newspaper in Winnipeg to a recently launched Burmese monthly, The Third Element provides an overview of how ethnic media shape the viewpoints of Canadians. Ben visits newspapers with vastly different environments. Most are family run and operate from home, while success stories include a newspaper in Vancouver whose publisher takes on multinational ethnic papers to reach staggering sales figures in 3 years! The growth of ethnic radio and television operations is portrayed with glimpses of programming by pioneering stations like CHIN Radio and OMNI TV. Set against the backdrop of history of immigrants in Canada, interviews with various editors and broadcasters reveal personal struggles and victories. A gala staged by The Canadian Ethnic Journalists’ and Writers’ Club shows how ethnic media celebrate successful writers and broadcasters with an awards ceremony. Join Ben on his journey to discover the expanse of Canada’s ethnic media landscape.

Kinngait: Riding Light Into The World

Set in the Canadian Arctic, this is an intimate, first-hand account of how the isolated Inuit community of Cape Dorset became the internationally celebrated art capital of the North. This is the story of the success of Inuit artists who emerged from the most unlikely circumstances to capture the imaginations of people around the world. The Baffin Island community of Cape Dorset is world-renowned for the art produced at the Inuit owned and operated Kinngait Studios. Weaving together many voices with images of iconic artworks, the film is a captivating chronicle of how art making replaced fur-trapping in the 1950s, detailing the complex relationships between the artists and their network of supporters. ‘Kinngait: Riding Light Into The World’ brings together artworks of successive generations that eloquently illustrate the immense changes experienced by Inuit to their way of life and their environment over the past half-century. Featuring hauntingly beautiful Arctic scenery and evocative music by Tanya Tagaq, Lucie Idlout and other contemporary Inuit performers. Length: 47:50' (broadcast) 64:00' (festival version).

Odd Kid Out

Odd Kid Out: An Intimate Portrait of Living with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The stigma associated with this 'Disorder' is so severe that many individuals and those close to them suffer in isolation. In this deeply personal film, director-producer Karen O'Donnell provides an intimate account of three families, including her own, with an ADHD child, as they deal with the scope of pervasive interruptions and frustrations ADHD brings to daily life. Should we medicate? How can we better teach ADHD kids? Why does society continued to discriminate against those who are "differently wired" rather than embrace those with this uniquely creative gift? By breaking the code of silence, the documentary educates viewers through engaging narratives and explores innovative solutions to making ADHD the badge of ingenuity it truly represents.

Walk Naked Singing

Walk Naked Singing is an inventive documentary filmed somewhere in the Ontario forest. The film follows the process of Wayne, Frank, and Gordie, over a summer, growing a commercial crop of 100% Canadian marijuana in gardens they call ‘rinks’. Wherever there is marijuana, there are authorities hunting it down and the film tracks the action of the police’s Marijuana Eradication Program. We also hear the story of Robert ‘Rosie’ Rowbotham, who holds the Canadian record for the longest time served in prison for pot, and the thoughts of Pat Crawley, a political activist and committed pot-smoker for some 30 years. Several people in the film are personal friends of the filmmaker. Walk Naked Singing is about time passing and disappointed idealism in a world gone corporate. In the straightest of times, freedom and joy might be running for cover but the longing to walk naked singing will live on. Walk Naked Singing was commissioned by TVOntario’s The View From Here. It premiered at Hot Docs! International Documentary Film Festival in Toronto in 2002. It was nominated for Best Director and Best Social Documentary at the Yorkton Festival in 2003. It was selected for the Yukon Film Festival in Whitehorse. It was broadcast several times on TVOntario, on the CBC summer series in 2004, on the Documentary Channel and on Spanish television.

The Journey of Lesra Martin

Lesra Martin was poor, illiterate and struggling on the violent streets of Brooklyn when a chance encounter with a group of Canadians shattered the confines of his life. Pulled from the chaos of the inner city and given a fresh start in Canada, Lesra became a hero when he helped to bring justice to wrongfully imprisoned American boxer Rubin Hurricane Carter. Finding the courage to change his own life, today Lesra is a lawyer and motivational speaker on the world stage. Delving into the intensely personal story beneath the fame, this film brings together intimate interviews with Lesra, his family and friends. From his home in British Columbia to a poignant return to the streets of his childhood, Lesra reflects with humour and grace on the events that altered his life. He also grieves for family still consumed by the unforgiving ghetto, while inspiring viewers to find their own strength in adversity.


"What is it about feeling dirty that shames us into silence and disgust?" asks director Meghna Haldar in the feature documentary Dirt. From the slums of Kolkata to Vancouver's Downtown Eastside to a barbeque joint in Central Texas – everyone has a different story – sex workers, poop scientists, sanitation artists, Catholic priests, cemetery workers, historians and little kids. Dirt isn't just a four letter word, it contains a world of meaning spanning the divine to the profane. A panoply of ideas, opinions and images captured with formal precision and overripe colour on super 16 mm, featuring animation to make Hieronymus Bosch blush, interviews with artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles, tracks from Godspeed You! Black Emperor and an experimental soundscape by Clinker, Dirt digs deep to illuminate the positively filthy experience of being human. 52 minute version also available. In addition to festival screenings, Dirt has screened at the Global Conference on Multiculturalism, Conflict and Identity, Oxford University, University of Regina and will also be screened at a conference on dirt at NYMASA. Dirt will also be part of the Wellcome Trust museum exhibit on the same subject in London, 2011.

A Tribe of One

“I will tell you once, but you must never ask me again.” With these words from her mother, Rhonda Larrabee discovered the startling truth about her family. She was not of Chinese and French descent, as she had been told while growing up in Vancouver's Chinatown. Rhonda’s mother was First Nations. Striving to preserve a legacy that her mother felt forced to escape, Rhonda struggled to piece together a hidden history. Her journey led to the life-altering day that she obtained her Indian Status Card. Today, as proud Chief of the New Westminster Band, she is focused on revitalizing the Qayqayt First Nations. With beautiful archival footage and compelling interviews, this documentary captures Rhonda's quest to embrace her roots and make amends for her mother's pain. As she works to restore the land, culture and pride of the Qayqayt First Nations, she becomes an inspiration to the generations that follow.
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