________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 18. . . .May 2, 2008


Citizen Sam.

Joe Moulins (Writer & Director). Tracey Friesen (Producer). Rina Fraticelli (Executive Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2006.
63 min., 39 sec., VHS or DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: 153C 9106 927.

Subject Headings:
People with disabilities-Canada.
Sullivan, Sam, 1960-
Politicians-British Columbia-Vancouver.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Helen Norrie.

**** /4


Citizen Sam is an interesting record of the mayoralty campaign of Sam Sullivan during the last Vancouver election. Sullivan, who was rendered a quadriplegic by a skiing accident at the age of nineteen, seemed an unlikely candidate. A right-wing economic activist on the Vancouver City Council, he faced several other contenders, but notably Jim Green, the selected candidate for the sitting administration.

     The film is unusual in that it shows both the political and personal hurdles that Sullivan had to overcome in order to become mayor. Viewers watch him debating Green on radio and in public forums but also witness his struggles to dress himself and to be lifted out a bath in a sling. This film has been criticized for these private scenes on the grounds that they are meant to excite viewers' sympathy. However, I found they enhanced my understanding of the character of this man and his determination to succeed despite serious handicaps.

      Sullivan exhibits some lapses in judgment as in his dealings with drug addicts, to whom he gave money for drugs before the campaign in his efforts to gain their confidence as he tries to understand their situation. These efforts are heavily criticized by his opponents in the campaign.

      He is presented as a tenacious, irascible individual, often insecure but always hopeful. The film ends on a high note as Sullivan, having been elected mayor, accepts the Olympic flag in Torino, Italy, on behalf of the City of Vancouver.

      However, perhaps the most telling statement come four days after Sullivan has been elected. Looking harassed and exhausted, he stares at the camera and asks, "Do I really want this job?"

      Since Vancouver is facing another civic election this fall, and Sullivan is seeking reelection, this is a particularly current film at this time. It will be appreciated by students in civic affairs classes, as well as by political junkies of all ages.

Highly Recommended.

Helen Norrie, a children's literature specialist, is the wife of former Mayor of Winnipeg, Bill Norrie.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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