The Georgia Straight
Refugee and long-term care come alive on-screen
Try to imagine what it’s like sponsoring a person you don’t know to immigrate to Canada. That’s the premise of a National Film Board offering at this year’s DOXA Documentary Film Festival, Someone Like Me, which takes viewers inside a Rainbow Refugee Circle of Hope. These are volunteers who sponsor an LGBT person to come to Canada to escape persecution in their home country.
Directed by Sean Horlor and Steve J. Adams, this intensely personal documentary tells the story of Drake, a young Ugandan gay man who expresses heartfelt gratitude to the Vancouverites who agreed to backstop him during his first year in Canada. Someone Like Me shows many sides of Vancouver, including the astonishing kindness of strangers in our city. It’s enough to whip up feelings of patriotism in even the most hardened antinationalist. But Drake’s propensity to party after his arrival creates friction within the group, with some expressing dismay as others remain eager to support him on his journey.
The heroism of Rainbow Refugee’s Vancouver founder, Chris Morrissey, is on full display at the beginning. It only later becomes apparent that some unforeseen challenges can come to those providing sanctuary to LGBT people in Canada.
“Canada is the only country in the world that has legislation for a refugee program that specifically reaches out to LGBT people globally,” Morrissey says at one point. By the stirring end of this film, one can only say “hallelujah”.
LOVE: THE LAST CHAPTER
Most Canadians will never enter a seniors residence—in the 2016 census, for example, 93.2 percent of those 65 years and older lived in private dwellings. So unless someone has directly felt the impact of a COVID-19 death in a seniors facility, it’s hard to truly comprehend the pain of loved ones and employees who have faced this head-on.
But Dominique Keller’s poignant NFB documentary, Love: The Last Chapter, can go a long way toward building Canadians’ empathy for those living in a such residences. Shot in the Silvera Aspen facility in Calgary before COVID-19 cast a pall over long-term care homes, it revolves around three elderly couples who’ve kept the flame of love alive even after their bodies deteriorated with age.
Romance is in the air between Jim, who gets around in a wheelchair, and Dianne as they twirl around the dance floor. A blind man named George rues the day when he’ll be separated by death from his precious wife, Doreen, but he knows she’s okay whenever she starts snoring like a truck driver. And Ruby and Victor playfully cuddle up in bed.
Keller shows the kitchen workers preparing meals, the residents going on outings, and the hopes and fears that come with living in what Ruby calls “God’s holding pen”. These are authentic, loving, caring people coping with unimaginable challenges—and not the caricatures of seniors so often depicted in Hollywood movies.
Under normal circumstances, Love: The Last Chapter would come across as a captivating glimpse into a world that few of us can understand. In the age of COVID, it’s a vivid reminder of how love continues to prevail in the generation that has been mowed down by a horrific virus.