June 18, 2020

SCREEN | 'There's No Place Like This Place, Anyplace' x DOXA 2020

"What happens at this corner will impact our neighbourhood for the next hundred years."
Lulu Wei | There's No Place Like This Place, Anyplace | DOXA 2020
DOXA Documentary Film Festival
Cinematographer Lulu Wei stays close to home by directing and co-starring in a documentary about displacement and gentrification in a changing metropolitan city. There's No Place Like This Place, Anyplace documents the transformation of one very notable city block, Mirvish Village in Downtown Toronto, surrounding the redevelopment of the beloved landmark discount store Honest Ed's by Vancouver-based luxury condo developer Westbank.

Wei wisely avoids an overabundance of sentimentality or even too much activism by portraying a fairly straightforward but nuanced message of hope and skepticism on the issue of Toronto's changing identity through its affordability problem. Although hyper-specific in its focus on the area immediately around the corner of Bloor and Bathurst, No Place could easily be about any growing North American city.

From artists to landlords, developers, immigrants, historians, local politicians, and long-time residents, the film ably encompasses all sides by building an intersecting point-of-view to its narrative without leaving anyone behind in its 75-minute running time. Moving in front of the camera, Wei and her partner feature their own status as residents on the block in question, worried about being evicted, finding alternative affordable housing, and figuring out their own place in a home that's rapidly transforming around them.

Honest Ed's | Bloor and Bathurst Street | Mirvish Village | Toronto, Ontario | Pattison Sign Group
Telefilm Canada / CBC Docs
Without delving too deeply into the city's complex housing crisis, the documentary chronicles relocation through our current moment but still manages to explain how urbanization, public housing, and city planning collide together in trying to solve these complicated civic issues through an intersection of race, class, and cultural identity.

There's No Place Like This Place, Anyplace offers so much exciting hyper-local history in its expression of present day Toronto. By exploring the time and place of one rapidly changing area, Wei so effectively relays a sense of place and home beyond buildings, businesses, or individuals to evoke what it truly means to live in or be part of a neighbourhood. It resists the easy pessimism of corporate greed and government indifference yet still remains very critical of what is (and isn't) being done to preserve a working-class way of life.

There's No Place Like This Place, Anyplace screens virtually as part of the 2020 DOXA Documentary Film Festival online and is available to stream until June 26th (in BC only).

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