Synopsis: Most Livable City is a short documentary film that case studies a man’s life in the Downtown East Side of Vancouver, BC. The film shows how people’s lives are affected when drinking water is not recognized as a human right throughout most of Canada. Most Livable City looks at water accessibility at the street level and also in privately-ran single occupancy room hotels (SORs), Vancouver’s social housing. The documentary questions how Vancouver is one of the most livable cities in the world when gentrification outweighs people’s basic human needs.
Most Livable City is an eye-opening documentary that addresses an important issue that is close to home. The film explores the issue of water consumption and availability in the Eastside of Vancouver, and how many residents struggle to get access to this precious resource. Filmmaker Fiona Rayher does a great job of talking to a wide range of people on the subject, including residents of the Eastside and City Councilors of Vancouver.
I was particularly impressed with the responses given by the city councilors, as they didn’t shy away from questions and appeared to provided honest feedback. Their inclusion in the documentary adds not only credibility, but also a high degree of professionalism to the film.
Most Livable City did lack a little bit of focus, as it appeared there were two issues that the filmmaker was tackling: The lack of available water in the Vancouver Eastside and the living conditions of the Vancouver slums. While this was likely done by design, I felt that such a short documentary may have been more powerful had it had just one central focal point.
At the end of the day, this documentary got me thinking about the issue, which was clearly the intention of the film. I would like to wish Fiona the best of luck in the future and we can’t wait to see the film again at the film festival!
Interview with filmmaker Fiona Rayher:
The Council of Canadians does a lot of work on advocacy for “Right to Water” and they have a project called “Blue Communities” which basically advocates to every municipality in Canada to declare water a human right. The idea is that when every municipality declares water a human right, then provinces can declare water a human right, and then hopefully our Federal Government will declare water as a human right. It all starts from the ground, and anyone can join the “Blue Communities” project. If water isn’t declared a human right, then there is no obligation for the province to implement water fountains around the city.
What were your thoughts on the responses you received from the City Councilors? Both in the film and in the letter you wrote to them
Andrea Rymer and Judy Graves are both advocates on the issue. Judy has been working on this issue for a few years now. But, for two people to be supportive out of a whole City Council, there is only so much they can do. There are a lot of issues that the city needs to deal with. As for the Mayor, I gave him a copy of the film but I don’t believe he’s watched it yet.
You talked to several people in this documentary, including the homeless man who showed you around his building. When you were talking to him, did you feel like you were going beyond just the idea of water consumption?
After we left the hotel, we were actually considering changing the focus of the film to [focus more on] slumlords and Vancouver slums, and who runs them and what not. But given that I was working at the BC Civil Liberties Association at the time, David Eby wanted me to make the film about water. Not that I had anything against making the water film, I just felt like this was a more pressing issue. So at the end, I made the film about water but also tried to draw attention to the Vancouver slums and maybe I could do the 2 in 1, so that’s what I tried to do.
I recently read that you hope to pursue documentary film making as a means to create social change. What other documentary ideas do you have in mind? And is anything currently in the works?
I’m working on a documentary called “Gen Y and a New Era” and it’s about the millennial generation of young people and our potential to change the world based on generational theory.
The BC Civil Liberties Association appears to be on cloud 9 since your film was accepted into the Vancouver Short Film Festival. Can you explain your relationship with them and the role they played in this documentary?
I was doing an internship with the BC Civil Liberties Association, and one of the requirements of the internship was that I made a film about right to water. I had their support throughout the entire process.
When you were shooting this documentary, did you ever get to a point where you thought, “this is going too far”?
I got quite emotionally wrapped with the film, but I never felt like I was going too far with the film. There are so many people who needed this story to be told.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in filming this documentary?
The film was made in about 3 weeks with a budget of $300.00 so there were no real proper resources or proper time to make the film, so that became quite stressful. Also, I was filming another documentary while I was filming Most Livable City so I basically created two documentaries in the period time that I probably should’ve done only one.
Are you going to use this documentary to help launch a petition on the issue? Why was there no call to action at the end of the doc?
I think call to action can kind of be cheesy and I didn’t want to take away from Dave’s story [the man living in the hotel]. This isn’t a PSA. If people want to act, they can act. They can write to city council, they can blog it. People are naturally creative; I don’t think you always need to give a call to action, especially if it takes away from the depth of the film.
On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you for this film festival?
I’m very excited! Not only for the people who I made the film for, but it’s also super exciting because the other director of this project I’m working on right now, ironically enough has her film “Forgiven” screening right after mine.