Sink your teeth into Six Primrose at Devour! film fest
John Hillis’ documentary about the impact of the Dartmouth North Community Food Centre debuts this weekend at Devour.
World premiere of Six Primrose Devour! A Food Film Festival Friday, October 26, 3pm Al Whittle Theatre, 450 Main Street Wolfville, NS $15, devourfest.com
Primrose, a documentary about human connection at the Dartmouth North Community Food Centre, premieres this weekend at Devour! The Food Film Fest. The film begins with a quote from French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: “To think, we must eat.”
“If we want people fulfilling their potential, one of the things we need to do is ensure they have a healthy diet,” director and local filmmaker John Hillis explains. “In order to do that, they have to be able to afford it.”
The documentary follows five individuals who have been affected by the community food centre since it opened three years ago, including a new Canadian from Syria and a single mother of four enrolled in community college. Hillis chronicles their lives as they reflect on food, friendship and community. Together, their stories snap into place like puzzle pieces, creating a vibrant, multifaceted image of the Centre.
“This is an environment that defines you by your strengths,” Hillis says. “They don’t look at the issues in your life, they look at how you can participate. It gives people an opportunity to thrive, instead of just struggling to survive. These are personal stories of people who are facing challenges and embracing them. I think that’s something inspiring that should be celebrated.”
With a 20,000 square foot urban farm and an industrial kitchen, the community food centre encourages people to grow, cook, buy and share healthy food. In partnership with the Community Food Centres Canada, the Dartmouth North Community Food Centre provides local residents with free programs, such as classes in gardening, cooking and fitness.
“Six Primrose is an incredible opportunity for this community to tell its own story—to share its strengths and its hopes and dreams,” says Caralee McDaniel, acting executive director for Dartmouth North Community Food Centre.
By offering a place where people can prioritize their well-being, the community food centre addresses systemic problems that many local residents face everyday. While filming, Hillis learned that one in eight households in Canada suffers from food insecurity, meaning that more than four million people struggle to put food on the table.
“Food insecurity has solutions,” Hillis says. “We have enough food in Canada. This is an issue that has to do with income, minimum wage and social assistance.”
Three years ago, Hillis and his partner Hannah Minzloff collaborated with Dartmouth North Community Food Centre to create promotional and fundraising content, which was when they discovered the positive impact the centre was having on the local community.
Wanting to tell the centre’s story through those who benefit from its existence, Hillis started talking to people at weekly meals and drop-in events, forming connections and listening to their stories. He gathered more than 100 hours of footage, crafting it into a narrative that he hopes will engage viewers and accurately depict life at the community food centre.
“Over the course of the year, I realized what was taking place there,” says Hillis.“I would say there were at least 50 days of shooting, but it never felt like work and I always left in a better mood. I hope viewers see what can be achieved when people are treated with a strengths-based approach. Where are people at in their lives? What do people have to offer? Let’s start with that.”
Named after the community food centre’s address, Six Primrose chronicles the resilience and strength of Dartmouth North residents from seed, to harvest, to mealtime. After Friday’s premiere, Hillis will participate in a panel with the film’s subjects and the CEO of Community Food Centres Canada.
(Left) Plating a scrumptious meal for the Community Lunch. (Right) Filmmaker John Hillis.