It seems that for every proud and excited Vancouver 2010 Olympic fan you can find out there right now, you’re bound to find a “nay sayer”, someone who is fundamentally opposed to the Olympics arriving on their doorstep and everything that they represent.
Just the other day I was standing at the base of the Olympics count-down clock outside the Vancouver Art Gallery along with about a dozen other tourists and interested spectators when a boisterous Olympic protester strolled up to us, pulled out a mini loud-haler and proceeded to blast us with his profanity-laden message of disdain for the Winter event and urged us to join him and his friends back at the countdown clock on February 12th (the day of the opening ceremony) for an unprecedented protest. I’m pretty sure his message fell on deaf ears – his delivery left a lot to be desired…
This bloke was just one of the scores of people you will find littered around Vancouver, and in particular the Down Town East Side (DTES) that believe strongly in their argument – that the millions, if not billions that have been poured into the 2010 Vancouver Olympics would have been better off spent on tackling the rampant drug use and homelessness epidemic that can be found throughout the DTES. For those of you unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, Vancouver isn’t exactly the little piece of heaven that all the “world’s most livable city” awards and honours suggest. Travel just minutes east of the down town core, beyond the seeming “Main Street” boundary and you find yourself in a district that is reported to be one of the worst in North America (yes, even including the USA), if not the world, if we’re talking about developed nations, for homelessness, violence and drug abuse.
I could sit here and express my point of view on what I think is the problem and how the powers that be could possibly go about finding a solution and a way to improve the quality of life for the people of the DTES, but I would no doubt be opening myself up to criticism from both left and right persuasions. But there are people out there willing to tackle the subject head-on and make their beliefs and evaluations glaringly public. Enter Misha Kleider.
Misha recently conducted his own social experiment in a bid to get to the bottom of the situation in the DTES using himself as the “subject” and a series of hidden and open camera observations and interviews with the homeless, and the people providing the available “helping-hand” services.
Producer of the film, Corey Ogilvie, introduces the documentary in the following way on YouTube:
Streets of Plenty – An unprecedented look into the underworld of Vancouver’s downtown east side ghetto, this 65 minute documentary follows one man’s 30 day experiment of joining the thousands of homeless, ill, and addicted, who survive the streets of Vancouver’s cold, wet December. He starts off with nothing but a pair of underwear. Where he ends up is a place he never knew existed, even though it’s a place he passed by every day.
This is the perfect film for anyone who wants to see first hand what life is like on Vancouver’s streets, but doesn’t want to risk murder from gang violence, contracting a fatal or chronic disease, or a life-long addiction to crack or heroin. Official Selection 2009 Queens International Film Festival. Official Selection 2010 Oxford Film Festival.
And with that, please take the time to view the 7 parts to this masterful documentary below. I found the piece riveting and really didn’t expect it at all to take the direction it does.
While it certainly doesn’t “speak” on behalf of ALL residents of the DTES, and I am mindful that the story is told through the eyes of a white male from a privileged background, it presents some pretty compelling points of discussion and will, if nothing else, get you thinking and prompt plenty of debate.