Now Streaming: ‘Unarmed Verses’
By Pat Mullen
Catch one of the biggest hits on the Canadian festival circuit from last year now that Unarmed Verses is streaming at TVO. Charles Officer’s documentary about the transformation of Toronto’s Villaways housing community, seen through the eyes of young resident Francine Valentine, ends a very impressive festival run that included wins for Best Canadian Feature at Hot Docs, Best Canadian Documentary at the Vancouver International Film Festival, and a spot on Canada’s Top Ten. Unarmed Verses is currently nominated for two Canadian Screen Awards including feature length documentary.
“Race plays a part in the economic imbalance, the structure of society,” Officer said while discussing Villaways and the documentary with POV for the feature ‘Neighbourhood Watch’. “It’s filled with people of colour, people from the islands, or from parts of Africa… the people [there] are brown people. That is the pocket. People are striving, trying to make things happen… but if there is not a shooting, if it’s not sensationalised, we don’t hear about their community or anything happening there.”
“The repercussions of gravy train era politics become all too clear in Unarmed Verses as Officer’s film considers the lives scattered by impersonal city planning,” we wrote in our review of the film. “Officer finds in Francine an intimate and accessible character with whom to see an impoverished community that doesn’t gain attention through shootings or underdog basketball team stories…As Unarmed Verses invites us to witness Francine’s growth as a poet and artist during a short period of time, it teaches us the essential role of community in shaping a city’s future.”