THE MAYOR OF TENT CITY (Rosalie Bellefontaine) Rating: NNN (September 21, St. Lawrence Centre) Rating: NNNNN
Award-winning documentary maker Rosalie Bellefontaine met Karl Schmidt, the visionary behind Tent City, when he worked on her house. Bellefontaine returned the favour by building this doc around Schmidt, who is not just a visionary but also committed to building shelter for Toronto's homeless.
She interweaves his story with Tent City's and - in a smart move - an interview with the late Pierre Berton about the Dirty 30s. Berton reminds us that the Depression formed Canada's commitment to social welfare, and Bellefontaine shows how conservative government and big business colluded to dismantle that system in the 1980s, resulting in escalating unemployment and homelessness and a shrinking safety net.
Schmidt, part of the Emergency Homelessness Housing Project, ends the film by asking about the fate of Tent City's other, less fortunate evictees. Bellefontaine's concise telling of important local history shows her TV training in its emphasis on the human interest story of a single extraordinary individual, leaving this viewer asking the same question as Schmidt.
Schmidt is on hand after the screening, along with U of T's David Hulchanski, Rima Zavys of Woodgreen Centre and Michel Labbe (Options for Homes), to discuss the issues.