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In the shadow of glory

Documentary film looks at another side of the 2010 Olympics

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What: Shadow of the Podium

Where: Brackendale Art Gallery

When: June 27, 8 p.m.

We all remember the smiles.

Mouths open ear-to-ear, cowbells ringing in hands, thousands of people packing public squares in Vancouver and Whistler to watch Team Canada sail to victory at the Olympics in just about every sport except for downhill skiing. An electric euphoria passed through the public like heat through a copper wire.

The excitement was so overwhelming that we've nearly forgotten what a pain in the ass the Olympics were before they actually started. Sea to Sky residents will have a chance to remind themselves of that when The Shadow of the Podium screens at the Brackendale Art Gallery on June 27.

It's a documentary that aims to tell the grislier stories around the Olympic Games - stories like the construction at Eagle Ridge Bluffs, the death of Harriet Nahanee and building a hydrogen bus shelter over a wetland with no public input.

The film forced a change of heart for Kelly Ebers, formerly a film student at Toronto's Ryerson University, who made the film as her thesis project. Living far away from the West Coast she was excited for the Olympics. That changed when she started to see another side of the story.

"Living in Toronto you don't hear all the negative effects of the Olympics," she said. "It's very positive in Ontario. Here I was hearing anything but positivity."

Ebers's documentary tries to tread where anti-Olympic films such as Five Ring Circus haven't before. The latter film focused mostly on the Games as they would hit Vancouver. Ebers tried to shift her focus north.

She moved to Squamish in the summer of 2009 with sugarplum dreams of the Olympics dancing in her head. All of that started to change when she read stories about the Games in local papers.

"There was a lot of articles that told you both sides of the story," she said. "That there were going to be a lot of negative impacts to the area. You got to see the environmental destruction first-hand, people being kicked out of their homes.

"I thought, how come I haven't been hearing this in Toronto?"

Inspired by Five Ring Circus , Ebers began gathering subjects to interview. She met Betty Krawczyk, the septuagenarian face of Eagle Ridge Bluffs protests; Sara Jennings, president of the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment; and even snagged an interview with Premier Gordon Campbell.

When she talks of "environmental destruction," Ebers is referring specifically to the section of the Sea to Sky Highway that required construction at several levels at Eagle Ridge Bluffs. She also refers to parking lots built in the Callaghan Valley - forested areas covered with gravel for the Games and then left unused by VANOC personnel. Only now will those plots be reforested.

"Even today I'm a little disappointed," she said. "We were filming in front of what they were going to build into a parking lot. They just kind of poured a gravel circle on it for a helipad."

Other interview subjects in the film included Squamish residents Ana Santos and John Buchanan as well as former figure skater Kurt Browning, which proved to be a "childhood dream" for the young filmmaker, so thrilling that it made her giddy when she met him.

In the end, Ebers said the film tries to take an even-handed approach to the Games. It tells its story in three chapters, with the first focusing on sustainability, the second on debt, and the final ring the concept of truth.

"The ring of truth was what we wanted to focus our documentary on," she said. "We couldn't really get to the extent of it. The ring of truth was about the way that the media represents things like the Olympics, so it's glorified and then our social justice doesn't matter."

The Shadow of the Podium screens on June 27 at 8 p.m. Admission is by donation.

 

 

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