One of the hottest topics in Toronto these days is skyrocketing value of real estate, and how the city is becoming increasingly unaffordable. In the midst of this, hundreds of TCHC units at Firgrove near Jane and Wilson are being closed because they have gone past the point of repair: the people who live there are being forced to relocate. Two of the films in this story cover that ground, here in Toronto, and far to the south in Rio de Janeiro. A third film looks at a new housing use for an older building.

In Unarmed Verses, the location is the Villaways, a TCHC housing site on Leslie north of Sheppard which closed for redevelopment in 2016. Charles Officer's film puts a human face on the story of forced relocation. In the two years that led up to the site's closure, we get glimpses of the processs—there are cameos from Steve Daniels of Tridel, architect Rudy Wallman, Councillor Shelley Carroll, and TCHC representatives—but mostly, we follow the youth who live in the project, amidst the turmoil that will shake up their life and the lives of their families and neighbours. TCHC will have new homes for the Villaways families, but some there's uncertainty during the years of construction that make the community members wonder if they'll all be back.

There's some confusion that the TCHC homes are being replaced by a condo; in fact a condo is being built on part of the site, but all of the TCHC units are being replaced on the site as well.

Our Protagonist is Francine Valentine, a thoughtful 12-year old who has a lot of responsibility in her home; an absent mother, an aging grandmother, and autistic cousins mean that life is not carefree for her, but she's got her dad, and with friends from the community she's joined a music program that will help them all express what they are dealing with. While older, more confident friends find there voice, Francine knows what she cares about, but struggles with shyness. A charming film, Unarmed Verses will give you a better understanding of what's going on in similar situations across Toronto.

Villaways youths gather in the arts centre, image courtesy of Hot DocsVillaways youths gather in the arts centre, image courtesy of Hot Docs

Unarmed Verses plays today at 6:30 PM at the Isabel Bader Theatre, Tuesday May 2, 3 PM at the Scotiabank Theatre, and Saturday May 6, 3:15 PM at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.


State of Exception deals with forced relocation of another kind entirely. In the lead-up to Rio's hosting of the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, stadiums and the like are being built and rebuilt, while disadvantaged dwellers in favelas across the city are discovering that their land is—illegally—being targeted for redevelopment by land speculators. The government seems happy to be aiding and abetting the land grab, sending in the cops in riot gear to seemingly do whatever it takes to make FIFA happy. In particular, the days are numbered for the oldest indigenous culture centre in South America—right beside Rio's legendary Maracaña stadium—as government forces attempt to clear it of its inhabitants. Toronto-based director Jason O'Hara fits six years' worth of oppression and resistance into 88 minutes of head-shaking outrages.

A member of Brazil's indigenous community stares at Maracaña stadium in Rio, imaA member of Brazil's indigenous community stares at Maracaña stadium in Rio, image courtesy of Hot Docs

State of Exception plays one more time at Hot Docs, on Friday May 5 at 9:15 PM at the Scotiabank Theatre. hopefully it will get theatrical release in the coming months.


Motel tells the story of a new community that has grown in the former Continental Motel on Niagara Falls' Lundy Lane strip, one of many of the classic motels that were abandoned by the average visitor as the high-rise hotels closer to the falls and to the casinos grew in popularity. Six years before the start of filming, the Continental became a safe haven for those who can't afford more typical housing when its altruistic managers decided that they could make the property a home for people who weren't getting other breaks. The care shown here for those who have slipped through the cracks is all to rare, and worth honouring.

The converted Continental in Niagara Falls, image courtesy of Hot DocsThe converted Continental in Niagara Falls, image courtesy of Hot Docs

Motel plays today at 4:30 PM at the Lightbox, and on Saturday May 6 at 8:30 PM at Innis College.