Director Charles Officer‘s Unarmed Verses follows Francine Valentine, an intelligent and very observant 12-year-old who lives in Villaways, one of Toronto’s Community Housing complexes.
We are first introduced to Francine as she reads and deconstructs the layers within one of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories. It is clear Francine is a very mature 12-year old by how she explains the meaning of Poe’s words to herself. She is also a member of Art Starts – an arts collective in Villaways – which is where she can develop her writing and artistic skills.
Francine has lived in Villaways since the age of 4; her family has lived there for decades. As is the case with many other Toronto Community Housing complexes, residents from Villaways face a relocation, as the city will “revitalize” the area by building a condominium tower and new townhomes.
The children of Villaways are well aware this revitalization project and relocation will affect them and their families. Francine has much perspective of the whole process. She comments on how are these families supposed to afford these new condos. Villaways is the place where she has friends, mentors… a community.
It is through Francine’s thoughtful words that Officer addresses the changes Villaways and its community are facing. It is true the neighbourhood needs an upgrade, but what happens to those who are displaced in the process?
I had the opportunity to converse with Officer about the making of Unarmed Verses; the young people of Villaways; and what he learned in process.
Officer introduces us to the people of Villaways, and through its young residents, we learn the importance of belonging to a community. We also learn the importance and the power of art – it is through art that Francine and other Villaways young people are finding their voice.
Unarmed Verses screens three times during Hot Docs.
Mon, May 1st, 6:30 PM Isabel Bader Theatre
Tue, May 2nd, 3:00 PM Scotiabank Theatre 4
Sat, May 6th, 3:15 PM TIFF Bell Lightbox 1