Local filmmakers discuss racism in YYC
A group of local filmmakers plans to start a conversation about racism in Calgary through their new documentary, YYC Colours, on April 9.
Iman Bukhari, the film’s producer, was inspired to start the project after she noticed her close friends experiencing racism firsthand. When speaking to mutual friends about it after, Bukhari found her concerns were met by apathy.
“A lot of their responses were along the lines of ‘this is Calgary, this is redneck town, this is the oil province.’ Obviously people here are going to be more ignorant,” she says.
“It’s just ridiculous. There is no reason why we should have to put up with that, why we can’t change that.”
YYC Colours was born.
The film focuses on Calgary, highlighting the unique Calgary experience, and targeting what Bukhari believes to be a pervasive idea that Calgary is racist.
The show debuts in April, after a year and a half production and features over 100 interviews with Calgarians from all walks of life. Immigrants, advocates, policy makers, and former Islamophobes share their exclusive perspectives on the various ways racism exists in the city.
“I absolutely love Canada. We’re so blessed in living here but there is always room for improvement,” says Bukhari. “When we explore racism in our film it’s not just the overt forms, but also the underlying, covert ways that society systemically treats people of different colours. You may not even realize you’re a part of it sometimes.”
Ideas and Reality Clash
Irene Shankar, a professor of sociology at Mount Royal University, notes that ideas about the existence of multiculturalism in Canada can conflict with reality.
“Theorists have stated that multiculturalism has become a selling feature,” Shankar explains, “we use multiculturalism to market ourselves as being distinct from the [United] States and to show our ‘tolerance’ and mask things like the ongoing colonialism of indigenous people within our borders.”
Shankar furthers this explanation by suggesting this view of multiculturalism lacks “meaningful measures.”
“[It’s] just celebration of diverse food, clothes, and dances – while the actual opportunities provided to different bodies remain unequal,” she says.
Bukhari is also the co-founder of the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation, a non-profit that works to promote multicultural awareness. She is an accomplished filmmaker, who received the Rationalist Society of Pakistan documentary award for her film Forced that explores the culture of arranged marriages in Canada.
Bukhari and her colleagues at the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation put out a call to action on social media, asking people to share their experiences as either the victim or perpetrator of racism within Calgary. The response was massive, with hundreds of emails from all kinds of people who wanted to share their stories. Even months before the film’s premiere, Bukhari was still getting responses.
The Power of Conversation
Bukhari is adamant in her love for Calgary, and Canada. She does not accept that racism has to pervade our society and our culture.
Instead, she believes in the power of conversation to change Calgary for the better, and thus her primary goal with YYC Colours is to spark what she calls a much-needed intercultural discussion.
“I absolutely love Canada. We’re so blessed in living here but there is always room for improvement,” - Iman Bukhari.
“It comes down to education. A lot of times when I tell people [that] people are racist because they are not educated they assume it’s [because] they didn’t go to high school. They don’t have a degree, no Masters, whatever,” explains Bukhari. “You can have a Ph.D. and still be racist because, by education I don’t mean school but actually learning from people, learning from their experiences, going out into the community.”
“This isn’t just about the dominant racial groups. It’s about getting together and communicating with one another, spending time interacting. That is education.”
Bukhari notes one particularly memorable interview with a self-described former Islamophobe. A caucasian male, the man described how he couldn’t trace his beliefs back to anything in particular but felt them fully until he got involved in a volunteer project, and began to work alongside people of different faiths than himself.
Tickets for YYC Colours can be reseved at the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation for the premiere at the Globe Cinema on April 9.
Thumbnail photo courtesy of Iman Bukhari.
- By Megan MacKay