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Whistlerites discuss negative side of Olympics

Film Five Ring Circus screened Saturday, after earlier rejection by Whistler Film Festival

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Twenty locals gathered inside the Whistler Public Library this past Saturday to critically examine the 2010 Olympics and watch the Vancouver-filmed documentary Five Ring Circus.

“As residents of Whistler, how will security affect us during the Olympics?” asked Pina Belperio, board director for the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE), the group that hosted the weekend event.

“How much money will VANOC make through sponsorships?” asked another community member.

And how accurate were the financial figures and carbon emission numbers cited in the film, asked several more locals.

Chris Shaw, spokesperson for 2010 Watch and advocate of the film, said it was very evident during Saturday’s screening that people in Whistler are still forming their opinions on the up-coming Games, unlike their counterparts down in Vancouver.

“In Vancouver, the battle lines are pretty drawn,” said Shaw.

“There is some movement, but for the most part, people’s opinions are already formed. Here in Whistler, people haven’t heard as much negative stuff. The public is still questioning the whole process.”

He added that the turnout in Whistler was decent, considering that in Vancouver, a city more than 60 times the size of Whistler, about 100 to 200 people on average attend each screening.

The film, by South African-born director Conrad Schmidt, examines the effects of the 2010 Olympics through three main topics: the cost to the average B.C. taxpayer, the Eagle Ridge Bluff protests of 2006 and the rampant homeless problem in Vancouver, especially pertinent along East Hastings Street.

Sara Jennings, president of AWARE, reaffirmed the environmental group brought the film to Whistler to show the other side of the Olympics, even though the group has been working closely with VANOC.

“I think the film was a great starting point for discussion within Whistler about the full impact of the Games on our town and society in general,” said Jennings.

Since it was completed a year ago, Five Ring Circus has aired almost 60 times in Vancouver, as well as two times in London, England and once in Halifax.

Schmidt — who sold his apartment and, more recently, his video camera to finance the film — said because of the controversial nature of the documentary, many media outlets have been hesitant to write stories on it, and Shaw TV is the only television network in Canada to have broadcast it.

He added that he submitted the film to the Whistler Film Festival last year, but it did not make the festival’s lineup.

“The Whistler Film Festival rejected it,” said Schmidt. “I don’t know why. It might have been because Whistler is pro-Games or it might be because one of the sponsors of the Whistler Film Festival is Bell,” he said, referring to the fact that Bell Canada Enterprises is a major sponsor of the 2010 Games.

Bill Evans, director of programming for the Whistler Film Festival Society, said the reason the film was not aired during the 2007 line-up was not because related to content.

“The film was not rated that highly be our selection committee,” said Evans.

“It was nothing to do with its content... in fact, I know it was something we were interested because of its content.”

Laura Stara, library director, added that even though the movie was screened Saturday night at the library, the Whistler Public Library does not endorse the film.

“It is important that people understand that the community room is for any community group to book, and the Whistler Public Library does not monitor or sensor what it is used for,” said Stara.

“We have the ability for all groups to present their points of view, as long as it is not obscene. One of our mottos at the library is that we have something to offend everyone.”

For those who missed Saturday’s screening of Five Ring Circus , 2010 Watch donated a DVD copy to the library. AWARE also plans to air the film again sometime in the next few months. And a low-resolution version of the film is available for download on the film’s official website, www.thefiveringcircus.com.

Schmidt is currently updating the film, with plans to release a new version in six months time.

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