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7@9 Conversation avec Selwyn Jacob, réalisateur /producteur Jeudi 8 octobre

7@9 DOC Québec : Conversation avec Selwyn Jacob, réalisateur /producteur
Animée par Sarah Spring, Productrice
Jeudi 8 octobre 2015 à 19h / Thursday, October 8 at 7 p.m. Association des réalisateurs/réalisatrices du Québec (ARRQ)
5154, rue Saint-Hubert, M° Laurier (Sortie Laurier)
Admission générale 8 $, gratuit pour les membres de DOC, de l’ARRQ, et les étudiants
Places limitées, réservations suggérées : info@docquebec.ca
Evénement Facebook
Pour vous préparer à la projection du film de Mina Shum dans la section FOCUS du FNC /
To prepare the FNC screening of Mina Shum film in the Focus Section

Projection présentée par Cinema Politica / Presented by Cinema Politica
Vendredi, le 9 octobre 2015, 19h
LIEU : Salle H-110, Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve Ouest, Montréal
Informations : ICI
Ninth Floor de Mina Shum réexamine la célèbre « émeute de Sir George » survenue en 1969 à l’Université Sir George Williams (aujourd’hui l’Université Concordia), à Montréal, qui a marqué un tournant décisif dans le contexte des relations raciales au Canada.
Cette histoire, Selwyn Jacob voulait la raconter à l’écran depuis des décennies.

Mina Shum’s documentary Ninth Floor reopens the file on the infamous Sir George Williams Riot – a watershed moment in Canadian race relations and one of the most contested episodes in the nation’s history.

The night before the highly anticipated Cinema Politica screening of Mina Shum’s Ninth Floor, Doc Quebec presents an evening with celebrated producer Selwyn Jacob who has worked for decades to bring this story to screen. Selwyn has produced over 50 films including many important works looking at issues of racism in Canada.

“I’ve wanted to make Ninth Floor ever since I became a filmmaker, some forty years ago. I’ve always felt a direct connection to the events at Sir George Williams. I, too, immigrated to Canada from the Caribbean in the late 1960s, and I could easily have ended up in Montreal alongside those students. And with the passage of time, I’ve come to realize how the story resonates for all Canadians.
— Selwyn Jacob, producer of Ninth Floor

General admission $8
Free for members of Doc Quebec, the ARRQ, students and FNC PRO pass holders
Places are limited! Reserve your spot : info@docquebec.ca
Followed by a free cocktail

Presented in partnership with the ARRQ – NFB – FNC – Cinema Politica

ONFFNC 44_Logo blanc horizontal avec datescinema_politicaARRQ
Long-form synopsis
It started quietly when a group of Caribbean students, strangers in a cold new land, began to
suspect their professor of racism.
It ended in the most explosive student uprising Canada had ever known.
Over four decades later, Ninth Floor reopens the file on the Sir George Williams Riot – a
watershed moment in Canadian race relations and one of the most contested episodes in the
nation’s history.
It was the late 60s, change was in the air, and a restless new generation was claiming its place
– but nobody at Sir George Williams University would foresee the chaos to come.
On February 11, 1969, riot police stormed the occupied floors of the main building, making
multiple arrests. As fire consumed the 9th floor computer centre, a torrent of debris rained onto
counter-protesters chanting racist slogans – and scores of young lives were thrown into turmoil.
Making a sophisticated and audacious foray into meta-documentary, writer and director Mina
Shum meets the original protagonists in clandestine locations throughout Trinidad and Montreal,
the wintry city where it all went down. And she listens.
Can we hope to make peace with such a painful past? What lessons have we learned? What
really happened on the 9th floor?
In a cinematic gesture of redemption and reckoning, Shum attends as her subjects set the
record straight – and lay their burden down.
Cinematography by John Price evokes a taut sense of subterfuge and paranoia, while a
spacious soundscape by Miguel Nunes and Brent Belke echoes with the lonely sound of the
coldest wind in the world.

Ninth Floor:

A conversation with producer Selwyn Jacob

What are your personal memories of 1969 and the Sir George Williams Affair?

I remember it well. I was a recent immigrant from the Caribbean myself. I’d just arrived in Canada, and was studying at the University of Alberta at the time.

I learned about the events in a curious way, through one of my professors in Edmonton. I’d invited him to various Caribbean student events, and we’d become good friends. Then one morning, he turned to me in class and said, “Well, I hope we’re still friends.” I was puzzled by the remark, and it was only later, when I heard the news from Montreal, that I understood where his comment was coming from.

So I’ve always felt a direct connection to the story. A number of friends from my home village in Trinidad were studying at Sir George Williams at the time, and I could easily have ended up there myself. I’ve been hooked from the beginning, and I’ve been quietly collecting information on the event for decades.

How did you bring the story to the screen?

I’ve wanted to make this film ever since I became a filmmaker. At first, it was because of my own associations with the story, but as time went on I realized that the story could have resonance for all Canadians.

Then five years ago, at one of our programming meetings in the Pacific & Yukon Studio, I raised the idea again. At the time we were considering a film adaption of a new book about 1968, and it occurred to me that the Sir George Williams Affair was an interesting prism through which to look at that period in Canadian history. I was busy working on Mighty Jerome at the time, but I started researching the project in earnest.

Mina Shum came to the project a little later. The NFB had wanted to work with her for some time, and then we crossed paths at the Whistler Film Festival, where she was sitting on the documentary jury. She wasn’t familiar with the history, but I gave her the basic facts, and she was immediately interested. We began a long a fruitful conversation about what kind of film it could be.

How has Mina Shum approached the material?

She’s brought style and compassion to the project. She’s found an original way of putting it onscreen, drawing upon her own immigrant background and her extensive experience as a feature film director. She began by researching the archives, looking for an original point of entry. We got great cooperation from the archivists at Concordia University’s Records Management and Archives. They helped us unearth some remarkable material, including footage that had been shot inside the university’s Hall Building at the height of the occupation. It was on an obsolete format, and had not been seen for decades, but once we managed to get it transferred, it provided vital new material for the editor.

Mina’s is a good listener: people want to tell her their stories. She was able to win the subjects’ trust, and to revisit a painful past that remains unresolved for many of them. She decided early on to avoid traditional recreations and obvious b-roll, and instead she interviewed people in stylized settings. She’s got a great sense of location, and we shot all over Montreal and Trinidad. In one winter sequence, we used Habitat, one of the buildings from Expo 67, and the effect is striking. We know now that the student leaders were under pretty constant surveillance. They were being watched, and that fascinated Mina. She loves spy movies, and she makes intriguing references to the genre throughout the film, highlighting the uncertainty and paranoia that characterized the time.

Was it difficult to convince the surviving protagonists to participate?

Some subjects came on board immediately. They were more than willing to share their stories, but others took some convincing. They had all paid a huge price for the stand they took. They were taken to court, and some were deported. Their lives were completely derailed.

Some of them managed to move on and have happy and productive lives. They were a pretty remarkable group. Rosie Douglas, who was imprisoned and then deported, later became Prime Minister of Dominica. Anne Cools went on to become the first Black Canadian to be appointed to the Senate, and Rodney John has had a distinguished career as a psychologist. But others never really recovered. Kennedy Frederick, one of the most fearless voices at the time, was deeply traumatized by the events. He features prominently in the archival footage, but he could not be interviewed for the film.

As fate would have it, Kennedy Frederick’s daughter Nantali Indongo still lives in Montreal. She’s an activist like her father, and also a musician. She is a member of a musical collective called Nomadic Massive, which makes a wonderful contribution to the film’s soundtrack.

What has changed in Canada since 1969?

There’s no doubt that racism persists. There’s still a lot of work to be done on that front. But Canadian society has evolved since 1969, and in many ways it’s a different country now. The fact that the National Film Board is producing this film – with Mina Shum as director and me as producer – is one important measure of how things have changed.

Written and directed by Mina Shum, Ninth Floor is produced by Selwyn Jacob for the National Film Board of Canada, Pacific & Yukon

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