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TIFF 2015 Review: Ninth Floor

Ninth Floor, a documentary directed by Mina Shum and produced by the National Film Board, examines the 1969 student uprising at Sir George Williams University in Montreal, considered to be one of the biggest race-related protests in Canadian history.

The protest, led by a group of immigrant students from the Caribbean facing intolerance from their faculty, began as a peaceful act with democratic intentions. Before long, it escalated into a harsh, violent conflict between police, that led to a barricade inside of the university’s computer room on the ninth floor. Shum interviews several key members of this clash, and provides insight into the ramifications the event has had on the changing face of multiculturalism in the country.

The film itself is engaging and weaves in a significant amount of archival footage and re-creations, to depict the animosity faced by the students, and their willingness to persevere in hopes of achieving the promise of equal treatment they expected upon entering Canada. It’s hard to not sympathize with their plight, as it manages to draw parallels to contemporary examples of unfair treatment in academia today – demonstrating that our values as a nation have progressed, but still have a long way to go.

As a key reminder of a turbulent time in recent history, Ninth Floor manages to captivate and enthrall across its runtime, and should be seen by anyone with an interest in Canada’s civil rights past.

[star v=35]