Movie Review – Ninth Floor (2015)
This Canadian documentary tells a surprisingly little known story of overt racism that is part of Canada’s history. In 1969, after experiencing racism in a university in Montreal, several students of Caribbean descent file complaints with school administration. However, when they receive little action on their concerns from those at the university with power, mainly white men, numerous students take control of the computer data centre on the ninth floor of one of the buildings, and hold a sit-in to demand change.
This was a fascinating look into something from Canada’s history that is not well known. In large part this story was not told after it occurred, and the producer of the film has since commented that the documentary’s release has allowed many people who participated or were connected to the protest in 1969 to finally feel that their voice was heard, which is such a powerful and important thing.
Writer and Director Mina Shum and Producer Selwyn Jacob do a fantastic job bringing this story to life. The utilization of props, architecture, close up shots, and long shots to tell the story from differing angles. She also uses a combination of video and pictures from the 1960s, coupled with present-day interviews with those who participated in the protest in 1969, provide us with a detailed account of what occurred, the motivations behind the students, the completely valid concerns of the students, and their thoughts on why the events happened the way they did. There are also taped interviews with administrators of the day, which help us to see the overt, institutionalized racism that was present in the university, and by extension in Canada. This is an important message for us today, because how can we make our country better if we don’t learn these lessons from the past? The filmmakers have done a great job bringing this to the forefront.
The interviews with others, such as the now-adult children of students from the protest and even the professor who was accused of racism, also added depth to the documentary, as well as some complexity.
The filmmakers tried to bring in some additional information on how this incident in 1969 had an impact on how Caribbean countries viewed Canada, and how it played a part in Caribbean politics and economics. This was a quick mention, and it probably should have been expanded or removed, as it wasn’t a full enough picture for viewers.
In summary, this was a knowledgable and important documentary that should be required viewing for all Canadians, as it shines a lens on the reality of racism and the issues we need to work to overcome, in our own country.
Overall: 4 stars out of 5 stars.