Faces of Midfield Mobile Home Park fight honoured in short doc
Calgary filmmaker tracks embattled community from gorgeous gardens to shuttered homes
A tale of Calgary seniors losing their homes will be screened at a major Canadian film festival this weekend.
Eviction Notice, directed by Calgary filmmaker Laura O'Grady, features the homeowners of Midfield Mobile Home Park, which shuttered earlier this year after months of legal battles.
The mobile home park was closed by the city, which deemed the required infrastructure repairs surpassed what it could pay.
O'Grady spent years getting to know the residents, many of whom were seniors.
Now she's made sure their personal stories have been told.
It'll be shown at Toronto's Hot Docs film festival this weekend, and on May 4, it'll be available for viewing online by CBC Short Docs.
O'Grady spoke with Calgary Eyeopener guest host Jennifer Keene on Friday ahead of the short documentary's debut.
Q: I think a lot of people here in Calgary might be familiar with the basic outline of what happened with Midfield, the decision to close the park and the residents' fight for compensation, but what angle do you cover in your documentary?
A: This story is a story about the people. What I wanted to talk about were the individuals and the lives and the reasons why their lives were in the spot they were in when I met them.
It's very much more about the people of the community, how some of them just couldn't fight more publicly, how some of them were determined to fight publicly, why they decided to do that and all of the obstacles that were in their path and some of the sacrifices they had to make to stand up publicly against the city.
Q: Tell us why they did decide to fight the closure.
A: In the case of our central character and a friend of mine, Rudy Prediger, it was never about the money. It was about what he felt was right and what he felt was wrong.
And he just is not the kind of man that will just put up and shut up.
He felt like the community was poorly treated, that the city broke their word and he was not going to just go silently. He was going to say what he needed to say and know in his heart that he did everything he could.
Q: Did they talk about how it had changed?
A: Certainly I saw the change, even before 2012 when I went in there.
It certainly was absolutely beautiful, some of the nicest yards I've ever seen.
Most of the seniors took great pride in the upkeep of their property. There were flowers everywhere. There was a French Canadian family that had the most spectacular deck off of their home.
Everyone knew each other. People would drop off groceries to someone who was ill. The women would have card club games.
It was a very much a small town that I think any of us would love to live in, when your neighbours take care of you so well.
Q: What did you personally learn in making this documentary?
A: I learned the importance of community. I learned that every one of our communities has individuals that if we learn their story a bit more, maybe we would have more empathy and compassion for them.
Every person in that community had a story to tell.
Sometimes you bring a camera around not all individuals are going to be receptive to it. But every single person I talked to, whether they wanted to be on camera or not, was kind and polite to us, and that was over six years.
Q: Where are they now, the people you interviewed from Midfield?
A: They're scattered. They're certainly not together.
Unfortunately I just learned that one of the seniors was horribly taken advantage of because they were vulnerable, because their friends weren't around. Someone just tried to take them for considerable amount of money.
They are scattered throughout the province, really.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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With files from Kathryn Marlow and the Calgary Eyeopener.