By Jordan Yeager
VANCOUVER – When filmmaker Ruggero Romano moved to Vancouver from Italy, he was struck by the disparity between its cost of living and its poverty levels. Vancouver is a beautiful city, but beneath its shiny veneer, Romano suspected there was something more substantial to be found. He found that substance in the city’s citizens, choosing specifically to zero in on the downtown eastside neighbourhood. Having been a resident of Vancouver since 2016, Romano was moved by the strength he’d witnessed in the face of homelessness, addiction and adversity. Wanting to learn more about the area and the people who call it home, he set out to create V6A, a documentary portrait of those who call postal code V6A home.
“I stumbled upon a difference between two words that are not necessarily present in many other languages but in English, they are,” says Romano. “It’s the difference between the concept of ‘house’ and the concept of ‘home.’ Many people might not own a house, but they have a home, while others might have the most beautiful condo, but they don’t know what a home is. The real purpose of the movie is to empower the people that don’t have a voice, and through that empowerment, inspire other people to explore what it means to be human.”
Romano initially met members of the community while spending time at the Carnegie Community Centre, playing chess, painting, and volunteering in the kitchen.
“I discovered the downtown eastside is a community that, most of the time, reacts to suffering with love,” he says. Once the film was complete, there was no place more fitting to show it for the first time than at the Carnegie Community Centre.
“I gathered all the people I could and showed them the film and asked if they were comfortable with it and if it was something they wanted to be a part of,” he says. “It was a very powerful night, because you really see what people feel when they look at the mirror that a movie actually is. Movies are mirrors for us. Not only does a camera absorb light, but it also projects light – you empower the people that have the chance to talk about what they’re talking about. Whatever the situation is specifically doesn’t matter. You’re giving them a chance to talk and raise their voice, and that’s only possible through trust and respect.”
V6A premieres at Vancity Theatre on January 6 and screens again on January 13. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.viff.org/.