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[OPIRG-EVENTS] June 11 8pm: film: Life on the Heater - voluntary donation

------- Forwarded message follows -------
From:           	"Ray Sullivan" <ray.sullivan@ccochousing.org>
To:             	"Festival Organizer" <info@centretownmovies.org>,
	"Maura Volante" <mvolante@ysb.on.ca>
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, info@centretownmovies.org


Life on Ottawa's mean streets

TVO documentary offers a sympathetic look at people society ignores
    Tony Atherton
    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 
street life.  

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," 
Mann says.  

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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