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  • Trevor 17:40 on 4 November 2013 Permalink | Reply

    A film about denial, dressed up in drag 

    Is it wrong to interview your friends? It’s a question we often ask at Terra Informa. Is there a conflict of interest in simply being friends with the interview subject? The truth is that, as non-professionals, most of our ideas and storytelling opportunities come from the people we know. Fortunately, we are blessed with lots of fascinating friends! I believe it’s worth it to explore the ideas and politics of our friends’ projects and experiences.

    I met Nadya Wilkinson in Montreal, where we were both involved in McGill’s campus sustainability community. Together we organized a Sustainable Campuses conference, among other adventures. Unfortunately, she went back to her idylic life in Vancouver, so I don’t get the chance to see her too often these days. I visited a few years back and stayed a few nights at her parents’ place near Deep Cove. An overgrown log and glass cabin overlooked by mountains and quiet waters, it’s a home as unique and enchanting as her parents. Her Tina Schliessler mother is an artist / fine art photographer, and her father Charles Wilkinson is a documentary filmmaker.

    Over lunch, they told me about their forthcoming project Peace Out, a look at the gas fracking fields of the Peace River delta. It later debuted at Toronto’s Hot Docs festival to warm reception. Now, a few years later, they have released a sequel by the name of Oil Sands Karaoke. It’s an unconventional entry into the world of environmental documentaries. Its lens is focused on a single bar in Fort McMurray, the heart of Alberta’s energy industry, and the community formed around karaoke night.

    The film is not doctrinaire. It gives the viewer insight into the lives of oil sands workers, the paths that brought them to Fort Mac, and their dreams for the future. There’s no hitting the viewer over the head with a message, though there is lots to learn here. And as my conversation with Charles Wilkinson reveals, there are robust, progressive politics behind his approach to the film. Listen-in to learn why Oil Sands Karaoke is a film about denial, and what needs to happen to turn Fort Mac’s future around.

    This story originally aired on Terra Informa in November, 2013.

  • Trevor 16:55 on 20 September 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    International students resist surprise tuition hike 

    In 2012-13, my job was helping produce the University of Alberta’s International Week. There were only five staff in our office, and we were responsible for a massive event series, featuring nightly keynotes and over 50 events total. Success relied heavily on the participation of volunteers. Most of these volunteers were international undergraduate students, a lovely and diverse bunch hailing primarily from China, Japan and Brazil. I love working with students and I found that these volunteers were especially eager to help, to learn new skills, and to simply chat about life in general.

    Half a year later, I’m working in a new office. But I immediately thought of these wonderful people when I learned that the University of Alberta had hiked tuition for international students. This story shares the voices of international students and local leaders who are organizing to resist the tuition hike and protect the rights of international students in the future.

    This story originally aired on the CJSR Edition in September, 2013.

  • Trevor 15:47 on 26 August 2013 Permalink | Reply

    Finding voices in Cold Lake, Alberta 

    In late July, news of a secret, unstoppable oil leak in Northern Alberta broke into the national media. More accurately, the black sludge was bitumen, and it was welling up uncontrollably on the wilds of Primrose Air Weapons Firing Range north of Cold Lake. Reports suggested that over 1 million liters had seeped up in the bush and muskeg.

    Unravelling the mystery around this story was hard work. Reports published by independent investigators in the Toronto Star used leaked documents from government scientists afraid that the disaster was been hushed up. Because the leak was on military land, no journalists could visit. Statements from Alberta’s energy regulator and drilling company Canadian Natural Resources Limited were confusing, but every week brought more alarming admissions.

    Finally, on August 8, 2013, CNRL allowed media to visit the affected areas. We were unable to join the delegation, but Chris Chang-yen Phillips, Nicole Wiart and myself decided to visit the town of Cold Lake on August 9.

    We wanted to hear how this leak had affected the lives of residents in town and on the First Nations reserve. We had no idea what we were doing as we drove the three hours north-east. We knew that it was a major story, that we had no hope of seeing the actual spill, but that the voices of Cold Lake residents had been missing from most mainstream news reports.

    We decided to head to the First Nations reserve and just start asking around for people who wanted to shoot the breeze. We learned some tough lessons that day. We heard powerful stories that we weren’t allowed to tape. I got into arguments with defensive townspeople, and I made mistakes. We stuck to it, and with a little serendipity, we found our story.

    This story originally aired on Terra Informa in August, 2013.

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