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[OPIRG-EVENTS] June 11 8pm: film: Life on the Heater - voluntary donation
------- Forwarded message follows -------
From: "Ray Sullivan" <email@example.com>
To: "Festival Organizer" <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
"Maura Volante" <email@example.com>
Subject: Life on the Heater: Wed June 11
Outdoor public showing of "Life on the Heater": a candid look at the lives of
homeless people in Ottawa, by local filmmaker Thomas Mann.
Centretown Movies invites you to an evening under the bridge. Join us
underneath the Sapper's Bridge (where the canal passes beneath Wellington/
Rideau Street at the War Memorial) to watch Thomas Mann's film "Life on the
Heater" about the community that once existed under the DND headquarters
8:00 pm Wednesday June 11th, 2003, under the Sapper's Bridge (by the canal,
down the stairs just East of the National War Memorial, Elgin at Wellington)
Give-as-you-can to raise money for Ottawa Alliance to End Homelessness.
The Centretown Movies Outdoor Film Festival shows free popular movies on Sparks
Street on Friday and Saturday nights in July and August. Check out our "Show
Us Your Shorts" short film showcase on June 17 at the Saw Gallery (67
For more information call 232-1534, firstname.lastname@example.org
Life on Ottawa's mean streets
TVO documentary offers a sympathetic look at people society ignores
The Ottawa Citizen
Monday 19 March 2001
Heating vent beside DND headquarters attracts Ottawa's homeless.
Derek Oliver, The Ottawa Citizen / Director Thomas Mann, a one-time drug
addict, became familiar with street life while working at the mission in
Ottawa, an experience that led him into the film project.
The grizzled man they call Hobo gestures with loose-limbed vagueness above his
"My records are up there," he says, referring to four storeys of concrete
rising above the Laurier Street Bridge. "Up there" is the Department of
National Defence headquarters, where some part of the life of this one-time
Canadian soldier and UN peacekeeper is neatly filed away. "My country has been
good to me. And they asked me to go away, and I went. But I came back a little
bit not the same in my mental attitude," he says.
You have to strain to hear Hobo as he crouches in the shadow of DND
headquarters. His tongue is thick after several bottles of fortified beer, and
his voice competes with the traffic on the bridge above him and the roar of a
heating vent below. Still, there's no mistaking the almost dainty admission
that follows: "I'm a wino actually, but I do drink beer on occasion."
He also drinks rubbing alcohol sometimes. And hair spray. "There was a time
when we used to enjoy drinking, but now we have to drink to survive," he says.
Hobo is one of the regulars at "the heater," a steel grate on a concrete ledge
that exhales the stale air of DND headquarters from 5 a.m. to about 4:30 p.m.
every day. It has become the preferred gathering place for a select group of
Ottawa street people, and is the setting for Life on the Heater, a candid look
at 24 hours in the lives of the homeless. The hour-long documentary airs
Wednesday at 10 p.m. as part of the TVO series, The View From Here.
Life on the Heater is not an expose, nor is it a crusade. It is a sympathetic
portrait of people that we wilfully ignore every day. It reveals a society with
its own hierarchy, a tattered sense of dignity, and a familial bond that can
withstand the volatile situations street life engenders.
At the top of the pecking order are Rip and Faye, a couple who have tramped the
country together for years, from Kamloops to Ottawa, living from one bottle to
the next on their undemonstrative but unmistakable love. At the bottom of the
heap are squeegee kids like Carrot-Top, at 19 a veteran of four winters on the
street, and 17-year-old Sue, who brought her baby to term while camping on the
Heater. They defer to Rip and Faye as they never did to their parents or foster
parents, but they get support and protection in return.
In between these extremes are people like Hobo, tramps who have earned their
street stripes by surviving the pitfalls of their addictions and the weather,
and Debbie, a homeless woman with AIDS who's dying of cirrhosis of the liver.
Life on The Heater records director Thomas Mann's 24-hour visit to the heating
vent in early March 1999. CBC radio clips insinuate themselves on the
soundtrack, marking the passing of time from John LaCharity in the morning to
Ken Rockburn at night; each clip records the falling temperature.
There is little self-pity at the Heater, though there are some occasional signs
of regret. Not from the kids, however, who maintain romantic notions about
Sue, who trades kisses with a sewer rat she's tamed, is contemplating leaving
the street to take care of her baby, but wishes she didn't have to. Leaving her
home for the street at the age of 14 "was the best thing I've ever done," she
"In a way, tragically, it is the best scenario she's ever been in," says Mann.
"There are extreme authority issues with these kids; they've never been far
from trouble. Their home lives have been insane."
Mann knows something about authority issues, and about substance abuse. The 39-
year-old spent 20 years in the drug world before finally being sent to prison
in 1994 for trafficking. "For 20 years ... I never went to sleep at night. I
passed out," he says.
When he first went to prison he thought of it as "an occupational hazard," he
"It wasn't until I got in and kinda woke up that I realized that 20 years of my
life had gone."
He rediscovered an old interest in writing and met fellow inmate Rosie
Rowbotham, a former big-time drug importer who is now a CBC radio reporter.
They began writing for a U.S. glossy magazine, Prison Life, and, for two years,
were among the team of inmates who produced a weekly Prison Life TV show on the
Kingston cable community channel.
Paroled in 1996, Mann was, by 1999, working part-time at the mission here and
freelancing for CBC Radio. It was for radio that he first produced a piece
about the Heater. Fascinated by the culture he had uncovered, he wanted to make
a film, and approached Susan Terrill and Doug von Rosen at the SAW Video Co-op
to see whether anything could be done. Terrill offered the Co-op's editing
suites, and von Rosen and Mann rounded up enough volunteers and equipment to
make it possible. Two days after Mann suggested the project, it was being shot.
TVO commissioning editor Rudy Buttingnol saw some of the hastily edited product
at the Summer Institute of Film and Television that same year, and offered to
buy it, if Mann would agree to clean up the editing a bit.
"This whole production has just been a confirmation of angels from the start,"
The contacts Mann made while promoting the documentary have proved invaluable.
Now he and Rowbotham have started their own production company, Contraband
Films, and are working with Toronto's Sleeping Giant Productions on two
documentaries, including one on bikers for Citytv.
This week, however, his main concern is finding a place in downtown Ottawa
where he can host a private party for the true-life stars of Life on the Heater
on the night it airs on TVO. Mann had originally planned to bring a big-screen
TV down to the Heater for the event, but access to the vent has been restricted
because of construction in the area this winter. Now he's looking for a suite
in a particularly accommodating hotel.
"It's got to be somewhere where they can smoke, drink and bring their dogs,
some interesting criteria," says Mann.
Life on the Heater. (50 minutes) Contraband Productions Inc., directed by
Thomas Mann, produced by Gary Nichol.
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