Who’s Your Neighbour?

MC40_BlackPantherLast year I was involved in the production of a television documentary in Nova Scotia. It was the story of a man who moved with his family into a black community outside Halifax in the early 1970’s.  He became active in civil rights issues and inspired many people in his new community to value and respect their heritage and culture once again,

Surprisingly, after several years he was arrested by the RCMP and turned over to the FBI. It turns out that Francis Beaufils was a member of the Black Panther organization and was on the run from U.S. authorities.

The documentary followed Mr. Beaufils over thirty years later, when he returned to Nova Scotia for the first time since his arrest. People who knew him talked about the critical influence he had on their lives and on an entire community. The documentary also brought together members of the Nova Scotia black community today. Some were active in rights issues decades ago, others are young people who did not witness the turmoil of the sixties and seventies but continue to experience racism today. The program was fascinating – the older generation described the racism they faced and how they fought to overcome it and at times chided the younger people for failing to carry on the fight.

The content of this documentary was outstanding, but the value of the program stood out clearly to me when I saw it screened at the Atlantic Film Festival. By Halifax standards the audience was unusually mixed race, and in a panel discussion members of the audience spoke about how deeply this film resonated with them. For many it was the first time in four decades the issues of inequality were presented honestly and openly. There were emotional moments from white and black people and agreement that this film should be viewed widely and serve as a starting point for discussion, compassion and resolution.

It was gratifying for me to see the impact the documentary could have on an audience. I also hope that as more people see this film they too will see the world around them in a new light.

- Peter in Nova Scotia