York student, alumnus make gritty film about Quebec City summit


Above: Collage of photos taken at the Oct. 8 premiere of Tear Gas Holiday: Quebec City Summit 2001

The images most people remember of the 2001 Summit of the Americas in Quebec City are harrowing TV scenes of activists being smoked by tear gas. Now, an emotional account of the handling of this political dissent has been released – Tear Gas Holiday: Quebec City Summit 2001.

The film made by Malcolm Rogge, a York alumnus (MES/LLB ’98), Mari Leesment, a first-year York MES student, and several independent videographers was released at the Bloor Cinema in Toronto in early October. It was also screened Nov. 17 at the University and Nov. 18 at the Celts Pub in Toronto. Rogge and Leesment played key roles in completing the fast-paced, feature-length documentary as members of the Toronto Video Activist Collective (TVAC).

Planned, shot, edited, promoted, and distributed by the group, Tear Gas Holiday: Quebec City Summit 2001 is a story about the protest in Quebec City in April 2001 against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

Rogge filmed throughout the protest and, in one of the more satirical scenes of the film, the camera shakes wildly until his assistant takes the camera and films him having his eyes washed out. We then see Rogge, who has recovered, asking, “Is the camera rolling?” then, “Is it on auto-focus?” He resumed filming and, with other videographers, logged 80 hours of footage.

Due to time constraints for Rogge and other TVAC-members, the film project had to be put on hold. Leesment’s involvement with the project didn’t come until July 2002. “Soon after joining the Video Collective, I heard about this project and it was exactly what I wanted to do,” she says. “Having participated in the protest in Quebec, I was concerned that a lot of people didn’t know what really happened.” Leesment soon assumed a key role in the project and spent months watching the footage, then logging and digitizing it and learning the edit program.

This past May, Leesment and Rogge, along with Naveen Goswamy, a U of T graduate, started editing the film into its final form. The collective filmmaking experience is appropriate to the content, since the film is a story told by the participants in the protest, activists on the streets, political musicians and prominent figures, such as Naomi Klein, Jaggi Singh and Maude Barlow.

The group has implemented a “copy-left” policy. They are encouraging people who see the movie to purchase it, copy it and distribute it to their friends. Screenings are taking place all across the country with various social justice and independent media groups.

About Malcolm Rogge

Malcolm Rogge (right) is currently working on his own films, including a series of shorts about the strangely interconnected lives of five young artists who travel between Toronto and Montreal. “Whether I’m working on a dramatic film or a documentary,” says Rogge, “I always strive to fuse my two passions: art and politics. In Tear Gas Holiday, I wanted to create a documentary that would be compelling about the issues and visually striking at the same time.”

About Mari Leesment

Mari Leesment is excited about being able to incorporate collective documentary-filmmaking for activism into her MES degree at York. Her area of concentration is popular communication for social change. “Learning happens on so many more levels in this graduate program because I am able to combine my studies with activism.”

For further information about Tear Gas Holiday: Quebec City Summit 2001 and the Toronto Video Activist Collective, go to www.tvac.ca.