From the drop of the puck to Sidney Crosby’s tie-breaking goal three hours later in overtime, the eyes of the world were fixed on glittering, prosperous, smug Vancouver...
...Yet just blocks away from the rink a very different Vancouver faced its own demons and dramas, triumphs and tragedies.
THIS IS A MOVIE ABOUT
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE GAMES.
“Luk’Luk’I” is the name for the swampy area known today as Vancouver’s ‘Downtown Eastside’. This film begins with the Downtown Eastside and the people who live there: the descendants of a long–and ongoing–invasion, taking upon their shoulders the colonial legacy of the most violent and repressed aspect of Canadian national identity. In Luk'Luk'I, our shared legacy of colonialism functions as a prism, allowing us to see into the repressed reality of colonialism in Canada today.
It’s February 28th 2010: the last day of the Vancouver Winter Olympics. At 12:15PM the puck drops for the Gold Medal game between Canada and the USA. In just a few hours this prolific event will undergo an apotheosis as one of the most remarkable games in hockey history. Yet all the while, in areas obscured by the glib patriotism and affluent façade of the game, another state of nature buzzes: the Downtown Eastside. This is where the path of vengeance and feathers start and end together, with life and death stakes involved. It’s a whole other world at a time like none other in Canada–and yet–remarkably telling about the whole of our nation and history.
Vancouver is a microcosm split from within: at once what has been called the “World’s Most Liveable City,” at the same time as “Canada’s Poorest Postal Code.” At the epicentre of it all is the intersection of E Hastings and Main Street (known colloquially as ‘Wastings and Pain’). But people from here will you that what defines this place is community, not tragedy. Communities are held together by stories, which people from here have no shortage of: for thousands of years this place was (and continues to be!) an international hub for the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam Peoples, in 1888 loggers called it ‘Skid Road’, protesters fifteen thousand strong rallied here on May Day 1935, throughout the 1970s many of the city’s psychiatric patients came here after they were ‘de- institutionalized’, and in 1992 the Woodwards General Store closed and then became a site of resilience and social justice demonstrations in the early 2000s. So, where does this powerful and complex legacy leave us now, on February 28th 2010?
Weaving these stories together over the course of one day, Luk’Luk’I is a film which reciprocally engages the real-life stories of five resident non-actors playing themselves under fictionally re-created scenarios, all taking place during the 2010 Gold Medal Men’s Hockey Game. The essence of the film’s hybrid-form resides in brief epiphanic glimpses of non-fiction truths emerging between the fissures of fantasy-fictions: this film documents the lives five people from the Downtown Eastside and the truths which emerge when their fantasies break-down. In a way, this is also a film about the greater–national–truth which emerges when the grand narrative of Canadian patriotism breaks down: the other side of Vancouver, and by extension, Canada.
Luk’Luk’I is a story about the contemporary state of urban colonialism in Canada today as told through the dramatic prism of the Winter Olympics, the Downtown Eastside and the resilient, inspiring and powerful people who live there.
"The truth is structured like a fiction"
Luk’Luk’I hybridizes fictional and non-fictional elements in order to tell a more comprehensive and complex truth about the Downtown Eastside. Each of the five ‘characters’ are in fact non-actors or non-professional actors from the Downtown Eastside (with the exception of Ken Harrower) who act as themselves in the context of fiction. The script for Luk’Luk’I was written in a reciprocal and collaborative process, drawing upon real life events from the lives of the residents involved. Setting the film on February 28th 2010 (the last day of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics) in meant to politicize these stories within broader contexts of systemic violence and ongoing settler-colonialism.
Patriotism is a very powerful fiction; and in the winter of 2010 it cost lives. Were we, as a ‘nation’, on guard for thee? Are we still – especially in the wake of Canada’s 150th? When the Downtown Eastside remains one of Canada's poorest postal codes, how can we, as a 'developed nation', be proud of hosting the world? As a result of legislation passed in the lead-up to 2010, gentrification continues to sweep across the Downtown Eastside – displacing hundreds. Situated within this greater context, the 2010 Winter Olympics should be understood as a new kind of settler-colonial formation; a settler-colonial formation that globally accelerates and insidiously enhances injustice and appropriation through appealing to the fiction of myopic patriotism. A main intellectual premise I am working with, then, is: how can the games unite nations while their venues are on stolen native land? What are the fictions which make this reality possible? In what ways do fictions of settler patriotism causally interact with the reality of colonial domination?
My vision is both intellectually and personally informed by my conviction that, rather than being marginal, Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside represents the central-truth of the patriotically ensconced Canadian settler-state. Taking up from Slavoj Zizek, I think that the Downtown Eastside should be understood in parallax with Canada: the two constellating as “two points between which no synthesis or mediation is possible” – yet both equally co-dependent in spite of mutual contradiction (Parallax View 4). The 'truth structured as a fiction' that I am attempting to document in the Möbius parallax (dis)uniting the ‘Downtown Eastside’ and ‘Canada’ can only be approached by constantly shifting perspective between fact/fiction in order to approximate the Real in between. Each of the five main characters is representative of an individualized mode of exploitation; only by documenting the singularity of each may the comprehensive truth of their shared domination be brought to light. This ‘truth’, then, is only universalizable to the degree that it is particularized: my truth is found in moments when non-actors break character, when actors stop acting, when non-actors act as themselves, when reality breaks down, when fantasies overlap to become more real than reality itself and when the Real erupts to reveal the fantasy of settler patriotism as lacking. This truth “is not the ‘real’ state of things, that is, the ‘direct’ view of the object without perspectival distortion, but the very gap, passage, which separates one perspective from another” (Zizek 281).
And on February 28 2010 this gap–this Real–was in the Downtown Eastside.