Can Twitter change the world? Can YouTube save a soul? Is there, ultimately, any real point to what we do online, or is it just (as the critics claim) a safe little sandbox where we play at building castles that are stomped flat and then forgotten?
A new Canadian documentary aims to answer that question once and for all: With Glowing Hearts, by Animal Mother Films of Vancouver. Following citizen journalist April Smith, activist Garvin Snider, artist/organizer Irwin Oostindie, and digital troubadours Dave Olson and Kris Krug throughout the period of the 2010 Olympic Games, this film looks at the ways in which each of the protagonists uses social media for social and individual change (a cause near and dear to my heart, of course).
I know all of the people featured in this film as well as the filmmakers, and I have to admit while watching this demo they put together for the HotDocs festival that the thing going through my mind over and over was the (rather unflattering to myself) “I could have been there…and I didn’t go.” And I didn’t, and I should have, but thanks to Andrew and Jon’s film I can at least see what I missed by NOT being there. The reluctance was equal parts:
- pushback against the overwhelming EVERYONEMUSTLOVETHEOLYMPICS/EVERYONEMUSTHATETHEOLYMPICS roar which was incessant for a full two years leading up to the event, and
- a realization that by the time I did want to get involved, that I didn’t know the issues and the angles well enough to do anything effective, and my friends were doing just fine without me.
I’ve lived and worked on the Downtown Eastside for ten years now, but I am not actually a part of the Downtown Eastside, even though I’ve founded community groups which are still active years later, and was the social media trainer at Fearless City. I’m neither “service provider/poverty industry professional” class nor am I “service recipient/marginalized” class, and no-one knows how to categorize me and thus how to deal with me. It’s part of the reason I’m not getting enough referrals for scholarship students: the organizations here don’t see me at their networking meetings, I’m not on anyone’s board, don’t go to the same committees, etc. And at the same time, I had to watch this film to find out that April was homeless for a period this year, when I consider her a good friend and would have put her up on my sofa had I known (assuming, of course, that she could have helped me FIND the sofa under all the laundry). So here I am in limbo, finding out about my friends’ lives by watching my other friends’ film.
Anyway, watching this video made me see what I missed, and brought this concrete change at least: I am never letting a momentous event and movement like this slip by me again. It’s not too late to become a part of With Glowing Hearts; you can become an official producer of the film for a donation.