In the wake of the Trayvon Martin murder case, Canadian filmmaker Charles officer was commissioned by the the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) to direct what the Board describes as an “innovative documentary” titled “Unarmed Verses, which explores race and youth in Canada.
“Their world is about to change,” says director Charles Officer, pictured above, of the kids from the housing project in Toronto who are in focus in “Unarmed Verses.” He adds, “I’m here to hear their stories, to listen to their hopes and fears. I want to know what’s breaking their hearts.”
The Toronto Community Housing Corporation is proceeding with plans to “revitalize” the area, and while residents welcome the prospect of improved housing, they’re also anxious. The redevelopment could take years, during which time households will be relocated throughout the city, separated from life-long neighbors and friends.
Added producer Lea Marin, who has been developing the project since 2012, “The idea was born in the aftermath of Trayvon Martin… it seemed like a good time for the NFB to explore how race and class were playing out in the lives of young people here in Canada. Charles has a great rapport with the community, and we’ve been able to focus on actual people and places, not just issues.”
Over a period of months Officer has documented neighborhood initiatives like the volunteer-run “homework club” and introduced his young subjects to participatory filmmaking. “We don’t want to impose heavy issues on them,” he says. “On one shoot, we arranged for one young girl to conduct a group interview with her peers. She asked the questions, and the result was amazing. It’s powerful stuff,” he says in an NFB report.
Charles Officer was raised in Toronto, and is the director of the 2008 acclaimed feature film “Nurse.Fighter.Boy,” based his sister’s experience with sickle cell anaemia (which was pushed on this blog), as well as the 2010 film “Mighty Jerome,” a portrait of track-and-field legend Harry Jerome, which won a 2012 Northwest Regional Emmy Award.
“Unarmed Verses” is produced by the Ontario Studio. Principal photography wrapped just last month.