Hot Docs 2017: Our Review of ‘Unarmed Verses’

Hot Docs 2017: Our Review of ‘Unarmed Verses’

Unarmed Verses
Canadian Spectrum


The film follows Francine Valentine, an intelligent and very observant 12-year-old who lives in Villaways, one of Toronto’s Community Housing complexes.

We are first introduced to Francine as she reads and deconstructs the layers within one of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories. It is clear Francine is a very mature 12-year old by how she explains the meaning of Poe’s words to herself. She is also a member of Art Starts – an arts collective in Villaways – which is where she can develop her writing and artistic skills.

Francine has lived in Villaways since the age of 4; her family has lived there for decades. As is the case with many other Toronto Community Housing complexes, residents from Villaways face a relocation, as the city will “revitalize” the area by building a condominium tower and new townhomes.

The children of Villaways are well aware this revitalization project and relocation will affect them and their families. Francine has much perspective of the whole process. She comments on how are these families supposed to afford these new condos. Villaways is the place where she has friends, mentors… a community.

It is through Francine’s thoughtful words that director Charles Officer addresses the changes Villaways and its community are facing. It is true the neighbourhood needs an upgrade, but what happens to those who are displaced in the process?

The camera places us in Villaways, and we learn the importance of belonging to a community. We also learn the importance and the power of art – it is through art that Francine and other Villaways young people are finding their voice. This film is a means for Francine and others in Villayways to tell their stories, and remind us of the importance of being part of a community.

Unarmed Verses screens one more time during Hot Docs

Sat, May 6th, 3:15 PM TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

This post was written by
Heidy has a love of fine art history, films, books, world issues, music and science, leading her to share her adventures on her website ( , and as a contributor at other outlets. She loves sharing the many happenings in Toronto and hopes people will go out and support the arts in any fashion possible.
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