Not totally photo related, not just a journal. A bit of both.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Watched: Last Call at The Gladstone

The Gladstone Hotel
By Tom Frog, used with CC licence.

On the weekend I watched "Last Call at the Gladstone" by film-makers Derek Roehmer and Neil Graham. It was an independent documentary that premiered at the HotDocs film festival in 2007. Shot over 5 years, it chronicles the sale of the 1889 Gladstone Hotel located on Queen West in the Parkdale area of Toronto, and it's slow transformation from a run down flop-house style hotel into the upscale arts hub that it is today.

I began watching it by accident while channel surfing mainly because I recalled the Gladstone being one of the larger venues for the Contact photography festival held in Toronto each spring. I thought it would be more of a TLC/Discovery Channel/HGTV style renovation program, but it turned out it wasn't. It was more the human story of the price of gentrification. Or in lay terms, the booting out of the poor and renovation of a building into a more upscale and urbane environment.

The story centred on one particular very old and very sad daily resident of the hotel named Maryanne and some of the staff at the hotel. It followed them from initial sale, through several Effed up ownership changes, squabbles, evictions/relocation of residents - some who had been there for 40 years, and the stop and start transformations of the building. What happened to the building residents I won't completely give away in case you want to see the documentary yourself, but they are no longer there.

I recall taking a couple of courses in urban planning and geography back at university 20 years ago (Yipes!). Invasion and succession or gentrification were discussed at one point. How a neighbourhood is transformed from run down with say a certain working class poor or welfare population, into a more upscale community - I remember that happening in Cabbagetown in Toronto when I lived there. But I don't recall the human element being discussed: how the removal either gradually over time, or by force or eviction, disrupts and destroys the lives of so many. Destroys a sense of community.

The current Gladstone Hotel, is beautiful.  It is, for some, the place to be and to hold arts and cultural events. I would love to have my images hang in a show there one day. But should that happen, I don't think I could wander the place and not think of the history and what had transpired to get the building from where it was to where it is. It had to happen, or risk being demolished, but still.

That hidden human costs of these transformations need to be discussed more.

The Trailer for the film is here:


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