Reel take on real issues

Global Justice Film Festival hosts variety of films, including a Winnipeg tale of hope

The Global Justice Film Festival (GJFF), held on November 1 and 2 at the University of Winnipeg, features a multitude of films – both national and international – including the premiere of a local film from a Winnipeg director.

Janice Hamilton, Co-Chair of the GJFF Steering Committee, says this year the festival is organized loosely into themes of energy, water and sanitation, food, and a collection of films on other topics. Titles in each category will be simultaneously aired in four different venues at the U of W.

Life on Victor Street, directed by Winnipeg’s own Kirby Hammond, is a good representation of what the festival is all about: positivity, change and hope.

“I moved to Winnipeg about eight years ago,” Hammond recalls. “I had lived in different places, and was living in the inner city myself, but the West End is a place that really interested me on a lot of levels. There’s an awful lot of talk about it in the press on a continuous basis, about things that were going right, things that were going wrong. There seemed to be a debate going on continuously in the press about Do we need more programs for the kids? Do we need more cops on the streets? What’s the solution? And so I set out to make a positive story.”

What Hammond ended up creating is an inspiring documentary that really lets the characters tell their own story. The film doesn’t seek to press an opinion or argue direct solutions. There is no narration, and sometimes Hammond even allows the characters hold the camera themselves.

“I wasn’t going to add my own voice,” he explains. “I just wanted to hear what they had to say.”

The film follows a Daniel McIntyre High School student named Brent, who allowed Hammond a glimpse into his life over a span of two years in a West End neighbourhood afflicted by violence, gangs and poverty.

Hammond met Brent through the school’s football team, the Maroons. He was interested in them because they had the “exact demographics that a lot of people were talking about when it came to gang violence, when it came to drugs, [but] were getting together and doing something different.”

“Brent was just somebody who was interesting to me,” he says. “He was very shy at school and he was very shy around the team… By the time I put this camera on him he just opened up.”

One of the strongest themes in the film is family and one gets a sense that a large contributor to a story of hope is a strong role model. Brent’s father is that presence in the film.

“It’s definitely about the two of them, about their dynamic, about the young kid who is trying to overcome all these obstacles, and a father who went through the same thing and was able to overcome it in his own way.”

Hammond’s film premieres November 2 at 4:15 pm in Lockhart Hall as part of the GJFF.

The festival is hosted by a coalition of organizations in Winnipeg that are involved in international development.

“It’s just one way to engage with Manitobans about international issues,” Hamilton says.

Other films she recommends are Symphony of the Soil, directed by Deborah Koons Garcia, which won Best American Film in the Traverse City Film Festival, and Bidder 70, a documentary about an act of civil disobedience in the name of climate justice.

The festival is sure to make you look at your world, even city, a little differently.

Published in Volume 68, Number 9 of The Uniter (October 30, 2013)

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