Some McMaster students rarely venture beyond the confines of the Westdale bubble. Others, like Nicole Rallis, take learning about their new environs to the opposite extreme.
The Haliburton, Ont. native and her classmate Layla Mashkoor teamed up to make a documentary about Hamilton for the final project of their 12-month master's program in globalization studies.
The result is This is Hamilton…After the Steel Rush, which the recent graduates are showing at The Casbah on Saturday evening.
"We just realized that there are a lot of global issues going on in our backyards such as the decline of the industry," Rallis told CBC Hamilton of the duo's motivation to make the film.
"We really wanted to explore how the city has been transformed and what's next for Hamilton."
Assisted by Fanshawe film student Mark Hoyne, the grad students interviewed over 20 local activists, academics, creative-types and other residents about life in the city.
Though the 45-minute doc features conversations with luminaries such as The Book of Negroes author Lawrence Hill, McMaster president Patrick Deane and former MP Sheila Copps, one of the most compelling interviews, Rallis said, was one the group did with Angelo and Maria Rodriguez, immigrants from Mexico and Hungary, respectively, who settled in downtown Hamilton about 20 years ago.
"They've witnessed the transformation of downtown," she said, adding that the couple, as newcomers to Canada, provided a "really interesting perspective" on the changes.
Rallis, who did her undergrad degree at Trent University in Peterborough, said the experience of making the film let her in on what she describes as the city's own "best-kept secret."
"When we first started the project, we were new to this city. But as we got going, we were very surprised by how welcoming people were and how they led us to others to talk to.
"It's a very strong grassroots community here in Hamilton."
The budding documentarians debuted the work at Homegrown Hamilton in November, attracting a capacity crowd.
"We were humbled by how many showed up to see it."
"We're planning for the possibility of a repeat of that this weekend," she laughed.
Having graduated in the summer, Rallis plans to mine the city for fodder for future academic investigation. She's applying to Mac for doctoral program in political science, she said.
Her planned study focus?
Something Hamilton-related, of course.
This is Hamilton…After the Steel Rush will screen at The Casbah (306 King St. W) on Saturday at 5.p.m. Admission is pay-what-you-can. For more information, go to Thisishamilton.com.