October 5, 2023

VIFF 2023 | Repaving 'Union Street' – Vancouver's Black History

"African essence is brighter than any diamond."
Jamila Pomeroy | Union Street Telus | VIFF 2023
Vancouver International Film Festival
VIFF 2023—Kenyan-Canadian actress/screenwriter Jamila Pomeroy directs the joyful new Telus documentary Union Street (her feature-length debut) about Vancouver's forgotten (or more accurately, erased) legacy of its historical Black residents displaced from the area known as Hogan's Alley in the Chinatown and Strathcona neighbourhoods.

Compiled of talking head interviews interspersed with archival footage and contemporary shots of the city, Union Street documents Vancouver's formerly predominant and proudly Black community destroyed by the construction of the Georgia Viaduct in the 1970s. Most notably, it highlights some proudly African-owned businesses of the past and present to put Vancouver in an interesting light.

Beautifully shot by cinematographer Liam Mitchell, Pomeroy visually recontextualizes some of the poorest, most downtrodden contemporary neighbourhoods through their rich cultural roots sidetracked in the name of stalled city planning and so-called development. Its exploration of Black cultural spaces (or a lack thereof) provides meaningful insight into the African diaspora in Western Canada.

Pomeroy's engaging documentary properly puts the historical context of Hogan's Alley and its enduring legacy of African-Canadian pride. Union Street celebrates Vancouver's Black history while further shedding light on the destruction and displacement of these people from their short but meaningful heritage in the city. Its advocation for a physical space to represent Black culture in Vancouver serves as a worthy call to action.

Union Street screens at the 2023 Vancouver International Film Festival as part of the Northern Lights series at the Rio Theatre on October 7th.

More | YVArcade / Inside / Van Mag

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