CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 5 . . . . November 3, 2000
Through a Blue Lens.
Veronica Mannix (Director). Gillian Darling Kovanic (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 1999.
52 min., 8 sec., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9199 117.
Police-community relations-British Columbia-Vancouver.
Homeless persons-British Columbia-Vancouver.
Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Betsy Fraser.
This gritty documentary was made by the "Odd Squad" (www.oddsquad.bc.ca), a group of
Vancouver police who patrol "Skid Row," a section of downtown Vancouver particularly rife
with drug use. These officers filmed the reality of their jobs. It is filled with horrifying images of
people reacting badly to drugs, addicts living on the streets, addicts who hurt themselves
physically in reaction to drug use, as well as before-and-after shots of the same addicts. The
addicts, themselves, are interviewed and are seen before, during, and after they have become
The video begins with officers giving a slide show to a school class in Vancouver. They show a
slide of "Shannon" and ask the class whether they think Shannon is an addict. The unanimous
vote is, "No, Shannon is nicely dressed, clean, and is not in danger of becoming an addict." The
officer's next slide is a picture of Shannon six months later. She is almost unrecognizable. The
film is meant to give a realistic portrayal of what drugs can do to a person, mentally, physically
and socially, and the result is a visceral examination of this horrific social ill.
The Odd Squad travels to schools in order to give kids factual information without any sugar
coating. The policemen have sympathy for the addicts, but their primary goal is to keep kids off
drugs and off the streets. This video provides an opportunity for teachers and parents, without
preaching, to show kids what drugs can do. The message against drugs is delivered by the addicts
themselves rather than squeaky clean authority figures. The graphic nature and disturbing content
of the video indicate that previewing the video before sharing it with children is highly
recommended and should be mandatory. The punch packed in this video is such that it is well
worth the viewing time.
Betsy Fraser is a librarian with Calgary Public Library.
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