Is Ot­tawa the city that fun for­got?

Amen Jafri’s doc­u­men­tary ex­am­ines whether the cap­i­tal truly is a but­toned-up bore, re­ports MEG­GIE SYLVESTER.

Ottawa Citizen - - FRONT PAGE -

Se­nate scan­dals. Se­na­tors hockey. The world’s largest skat­ing rink. You might think all that would help the na­tion’s cap­i­tal shed its rep­u­ta­tion as Dullsville.

Sadly, no; and now there’s a film on the topic. Amen Jafri, 30, has pro­duced and di­rected a doc­u­men­tary that con­sid­ers Ot­tawa’s sup­pos­edly dreary dy­namic. Bor­row­ing a deroga­tory line from news­pa­per colum­nist Al­lan Fother­ing­ham, she’s called the film The City That Fun For­got?

Why this topic? Well, Jafri is orig­i­nally from Toronto but is now set­tled in Ot­tawa, work­ing for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. On the side she de­votes her­self to film pro­duc­tion and lo­cal is­sues such as “fun,” or the lack thereof. Her con­clu­sion? Yes, she’s found the cap­i­tal city some­times fun-chal­lenged. “My friend Nathan and I were mu­tu­ally frus­trated with Ot­tawa and find­ing some­thing to do in the city,” says Jafri, ex­plain­ing the project’s ori­gins. “That’s kind of where it all got started.”

In her re­search, Jafri found that Ot­tawa has a thriv­ing un­der­ground arts scene, but not ev­ery­one is aware of it. And the bars and clubs of­ten ap­pear dead, she says, re­call­ing a re­cent night when she and friend were the only two cus­tomers.

“The idea that fun is hid­den in Ot­tawa — that seems to come up a lot. That’s partly why it’s hard to find fun things to do, be­cause you have to do a lit­tle dig­ging.”

Peo­ple, of course, can make up their own minds. Jafri’s doc­u­men­tary will air Thurs­day at HUB Ot­tawa. A panel dis­cus­sion will fol­low on the topic, “Is Ot­tawa as dull as Cana­di­ans seem to think it is?” Par­tic­i­pants in­clude peo­ple in the arts, busi­ness and pol­i­tics, and Jafri will be on hand.

It prom­ises to be an in­ter­est­ing evening con­sid­er­ing the ad­vance com­ments from some of the pan­el­lists.

Jesse Cress­man-Dickinson, a “com­mu­nity cat­a­lyst” at HUB Ot­tawa and event or­ga­nizer:

“I think we all have a part to play in chang­ing the rep­u­ta­tion of Ot­tawa ex­ter­nally. When you get those crin­kled up noses from peo­ple when you say you live in Ot­tawa, tell them what it is you love about this city,” said Cress­man-Dickinson.

“I think the city has a lot to of­fer but you have to find it.”

Stephanie Vi­cente, co­founder and editor-in-chief at Herd Mag­a­zine:

Vi­cente said her po­si­tion as editor of an arts mag­a­zine keeps her plugged-in to trendy events and projects in the city.

“I sort of keep an eye out to what’s go­ing on; what peo­ple think and who is col­lab­o­rat­ing with who; so I have a unique per­spec­tive in that I’m heav­ily in­volved,” said Vi­cente.

“But I know what it’s like to be on the out­side.”

Mitchell Kut­ney, co­founder of Just Change, Ot­tawa:

Kut­ney was one of the pan­el­lists who said he wants to dis­cuss the grow­ing de­vel­op­ment of so­cial en­ter­prise in Ot­tawa. Ac­cord­ing to Kut­ney, there’s a new way of do­ing busi­ness where young peo­ple care less about the bot­tom line and more about the mis­sion of the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

If you can get past Ot­tawa’s dull ex­te­rior and re­ally throw your­self into an or­ga­ni­za­tion, said Kut­ney, you will be­gin to see a city full of colour, cul­ture and ex­cite­ment.

Although he dis­agrees with the film’s premise, Kut­ney says he wouldn’t knock view­ing it.

“I think that film is a great way to help break some of those cul­tural bar­ri­ers or rep­u­ta­tions that is dif­fi­cult for a city to shake,” said Kut­ney. “I’d like to see more young peo­ple do­nat­ing their time and money to causes they be­lieve in in­stead of spend­ing it at the movies or the bar.”

Mathieu Fleury, city coun­cil­lor, Ward 12, Rideau-Vanier:

Fleury has some ideas for liven­ing up the city.

He’s back­ing a bid to keep the ByWard Mar­ket open late for shop­pers and tourists this sum­mer. That way, farm­ers can sell their prod­ucts for longer pe­ri­ods. But the de­sire to stay open must also be there, Fleury said.

As an ac­tive cit­i­zen, Fleury also said he be­lieves ev­ery­one should take the ini­tia­tive to get in­volved.

“I think the city has a re­spon­si­bil­ity,” said Fleury, “but ev­ery res­i­dent has a role to play in mak­ing Ot­tawa fun.”

Jafri would agree with his ar­gu­ment, too.

“We need to en­vi­sion what we want Ot­tawa to be­come and ask, ‘How do we make that hap­pen?’ ”

mitchell kut­ney

Jesse cress­man-Dickinson

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