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Interview: Between The Lines

The inauguration of Rod Ford as the 64th Mayor of Toronto in 2010 galvanized many and brought about myriad changes to the city, with new attitudes taking many forms. Art was one of the cultural aspects of the city that started to suffer, with street art and graffiti in particular being sought out and eliminated by the Ford administration.

This attack, a so-called war on graffiti, compelled Torontonian James Gen Meers to investigate further, and what he found was a subculture, often ignored and misunderstood, of urban living being slowly dismantled.

Over the last year, Gen Meers, alongside a film crew including director Jake Chirico, has begun cataloging this world, profiling graffiti artists and exploring the culture of street art in a forthcoming documentary titled Between the Lines. “This began after Rob Ford declared war on graffiti,” Gen Meers explained over the phone. “I wanted to uncork a conversation around it and capture the narratives of streets artists.”

Gen Meers himself is not a graffiti artist, but was compelled as a citizen of Toronto to learn about what was happening. Though brought upon by Ford’s ‘war on graffiti,” as Gen Meers puts it, the film is not political. “Ford is an art mayor of the city,” he explains. “He provokes people, artists; he’s a lightning rod that polarizes communities.”

“We’re not trying to make a villain of him.”

The film, one that looks to embrace the culture of art of Toronto in particular and a global graffiti movement in general, has yet to be completed. The filmmakers are in the process of raising funds in order to complete a story that, once thought to become a five minute video, has grown more interesting and compelling as they delve deeper into this community.

While time is nearly an end in fundraising effort through Hot Docs Film Festival ‘Doc Ignite’ program to raise $15,000, an additional fundraiser will be held on Thursday, September 6th, at the Virgin Mobile Mod Club, with plenty of live music accompaniment.

A trailer, however, has been released on their website, as well as series of webisodes profiling artists in conjunction with Torontoist Magazine. “The film is a message that speaks to an urban lifestyle and the visceral experience of living in a big city,” added Gen Meers. “Our goal is to reach out with a message that speaks to public space and advertising. Although it’s very local and celebrating Toronto, we think there is resonance everywhere.”

The filmmakers have yet to reach out to Rob Ford directly however they have received support from Councilours Adam Vaughan and Krystin Wong-Tam. They too, of course, have earned the support of many a street artist, though some will continue to remain anonymous.

“We’re exploring very interesting dialogues from these characters,” concluded Gen Meers, discussing the artists. “We’re realy looking to have their stories connect with people.”

For more information and to learn how to support the film, check out their website, Twitter, or Facebook.

Anthony Marcusa

A pop-culture consumer, Anthony seeks out what is important in entertainment and mocks what is not. Inspired by history, Anthony writes with the hope that someone, somewhere, might be affected.