The second in a series of five films Antigonish County Adult Learning Association (ACALA) is producing, regarding issues around affordable housing in Antigonish and area, made its debut April 11.
A strong afternoon turnout watched the film by Deborah Jenkins in the community room of the People’s Place Library. Looking for Change by Jenkins follows Peter Murphy’s Affordable Antigonish which was released in February. “It’s important we educate people in this community about housing poverty because there are always people who will deny there is a problem,” Katherine Reed, from the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre and co-ordinator of the Antigonish Affordable Housing project, said as an introduction to the film. “So when you actually see people talking about what they’re living in, what it is costing them and what the effect of that is on their life, it’s persuasive.” Jenkins’ film contains numerous interviews from a wide spectrum of people.
“She talked to low income people, people from the black community, Aboriginal community, Antigonish town and county, mainstream folk … she presented a very broad picture which is part of why it [the film] is very powerful,” Reed said following the viewing.
She also noted the way the filmmaker was able to “juxtapose” the problems and non-action with affordable housing with the fact there are solutions and resources available – just not being used. “There is so much talk and very little action … it’s just extremely difficult,” Reed said. “In spite of the fact we have enough money to meet the needs and build the housing, as it was said in the film – ‘there is no impediment’ – we have everything we need to provide housing for everyone who needs it but, in spite of that, we don’t have it. “So why not? It’s not that we’re inadequate or stupid or anything like that, we’re doing what we can. It’s just extremely difficult in this context to do anything about housing and poverty,” she said, adding, again, Jenkins does a good job of capturing the frustration.
Jenkins was unavailable for the showing so ACALA director Lise deVilliers spoke to the many volunteer hours the filmmaker put in on the project.
“It’s a complex issue and this is Deborah’s take on the issue,” deVilliers said, adding Jenkins also expressed to her how much the making of film impacted and ‘changed’ her.
ACALA student Carriff Shabala worked on the film with Jenkins and talked about the learning experience. “It was awesome,” she said. “Deborah is so creative so I was able to learn a lot from her.” Shabala talked about picking up a lot on the technical side of the filmmaking, such as framing shots and proper lighting, and also the impact of being on-hand for the interviews. “Interviewing the people was incredible because you really get to see the emotion that comes out when they’re speaking about a topic they’re very passionate about,” she said. As far as what the experience taught her about the subject matter, Shabala said she didn’t realize how widespread the problem is and how many different sectors of the population it touches, noting a range that includes single mothers to men having a difficult time finding work. “And a lot of people in authority just don’t seem to notice,” she said. The film will put on YouTube and will be shown on EastLink TV. In her role as emcee, Reed did note a recent positive move made by the federal government with regards to affordable housing, which will benefit a local project she is involved with. “In this federal budget we just received, they’ve renewed the federal-provincial agreement where they provide up to $25,000 per unit constructed for affordable housing,” Reed said. “That’s what we’re using to build the project we’re planning now,” she added, a reference to a project on Riverside Drive in Antigonish.
Reed said it bodes well for future projects as well. “If we know we can have more of that for the next five years we can go on building one project after another … as we hoped to do,” she said.
“We were hoping to do that but, having no sign they were going to renew that money, we didn’t know what we were going to do. Now we know the money will be there.”