With “Ninth Floor,” filmmaker Mina Shum (“Double Happiness”) jumps into feature documentary filmmaking with heavy subject matter and a new take on talking-head formats.
Shum’s film booms deeply; its focus is the controversies over the 1969 protests and riots at Montreal’s Sir George Williams University (now Concordia University). The events were sparked when a group of Caribbean students voiced concerns that a professor had directed racist comments and actions toward them. The university’s handling of the complaints caused students from across the city to band together and the situation evolved into a war with the administration.
The heated events took place over 40 years ago, but the outspoken individuals who are interviewed in “Ninth Floor” vividly recount every harrowing instant of the sit-ins, protests and occupation of the university, honouring the significance of this tumultuous and tainted moment in Canadian history. The audience can feel the film reverberate with passion throughout, and the feeling is astonishing.
That overpowering sensation that Shum builds so well with archival footage and courageous interviews plays more quietly in the latter half of the film, but the use of cinematographic styles and crisp editing keep “Ninth Floor’s” heart continuously beating like a steady drum.
“Ninth Floor” has its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) on Saturday, September 12 at 7:15 p.m. at the Scotiabank Theatre.
Missed the TIFF screenings? Keep an eye on the “Ninth Floor” web page on the National Film Board of Canada’s site.