Monday, April 14, 2014

DOCUMENTARY: The City that Fun Forgot

Last year I posted a blog entry regarding Ottawa and why we are considered to be such a boring city. I also had mentioned an upcoming documentary at the time "The City that Fun Forgot." This documentary is now complete and I'll be attending the sold out screening this week at Raw Sugar Café. 

I recently caught up with one of the director/producer/writer of the documentary; Amen Jafri to find out exactly what to expect. 

Sash in the City: Were you born and raised in Ottawa?

Amen Jafri: I was born in Richmond Hill (Toronto), but I moved to Ottawa to go to Carleton University and have stayed ever since.  I've been here about 10 years now.

Was the documentary your idea? If so, how did you come up with it? Did you enjoy filming it? Are you happy with the result?

My friend Nathan and I were both frustrated with the city and how it wasn't quite meeting its potential.  We also kept hearing people remark that Ottawa was a boring city.  I honestly just envisioned myself standing on street corners interviewing people, asking them, "do you think Ottawa is a boring city?  Why or why not?" And that's how the idea for the documentary came about.  This is also a topic that has been constantly discussed over the years and it seemed perfect to create a snapshot of those ongoing conversations in an oral and visual medium.  We wanted the documentary to be easily shared online, to continue the conversation.
It was a long process - about three years - but when I look back on all the people I've met as a result of the documentary and the mini adventures we've had, it was definitely fun to film it.  In the moment it was a bit frustrating, because we weren't sure what kind of story we were ultimately telling, given that it is such a broad topic. 

I am pleasantly surprised at how well it turned out.  Of course, since I am a perfectionist and this is my first film, I wouldn't say it's without its flaws.

Who was your favorite subject to interview? 

Andrew Cohen, because he's a journalist who has written on this topic before and all his answers were so well-thought out and witty.  It makes for good sound bites!

Why do you think Ottawa has a reputation for being boring?

I definitely think that fact that it is not an organic capital, but one that had to be created has something to do with it.  Ottawa never had a chance to develop organically into its own, because its status as the National Capital consistently overshadowed its identity as a city, even to this day.  If all you know of Ottawa (as a tourist) is based on it as the Capital, then what you will largely see is a beautiful, sanitized, family-friendly version of the city.

There are a lot of other reasons as well, related to urban planning, cultural infrastructure and the transit system, but you'll need to watch the documentary to find out about those!

How has the response been so far to your documentary?

Completely overwhelming, but positive for the most part.  When we had a our first screening at Hub Ottawa we received requests for multiple media interviews, from a range of outlets in the city.  Some people who have not seen the documentary have been offended by the title, but we never set out to be the final word on the subject.  But I also had someone tell me that they attended the first screening completely prepared to hate it and they ended up being quite pleased with the end result.

What are some of your favorite things about Ottawa? Where do you like to hang out? Favorite restaurant?

I like the neighbourhoods, because that's where you get a real sense of community and culture in this city. It's always fun strolling through Hintonburg or Chinatown and discovering new businesses or restaurants popping up.  

My favourite restaurant in this city is Palais imperial in the Byward Market.  They honestly never disappoint with their food, the service is always very good and there is always a crowd - especially for dim sum on the weekends!

What is your favorite documentary? Why?

I think one of my favourite documentaries is Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell.  She takes a very personal family story and uses her brilliant direction to take it to a whole new level, so that its message becomes more universal and profound.  

What's next on the horizon for "The City that Fun Forgot?" ? 

We would like to host perhaps a couple more screenings and then finally, we'll post it online!


The wait-list for future showings can be found at:

If you are interested in hearing more about "The City that Fun Forgot - you can check them out online, on their Facebook Page or follow them on Twitter. 

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