Acclaimed ‘Scarborough’ film needed, but more must be done to boost voter turnout: candidates

Does the film shed enough light on Scarborough's challenges to get people to vote? Here's what residents believe

Scarborough movie
A still image of the award-winning film, 'Scarborough.' (Photo supplied by levelFILM) 

“Scarborough is unique, and Scarborough is not unique.”

Niyosha Keyzad, a local advocate, had just shared her thoughts about the upcoming Ontario election in an interview with the Toronto Observer, when she called back to sum up the diverse area that has received recent media and arts attention.

Scarborough is not only a district in Toronto where residents will vote for their candidates in the upcoming election, but it is also the name of an award-winning film and book.

levelFILM, a film distribution company, promotes the film on an Instagram post as it wins the 2022 Canadian Screen Awards.

Scarborough is a documentary-style fictional film that tells the stories of three low-income families struggling to survive in the district of Toronto. It was named to Toronto International Film Festival’s Canada’s Top Ten list for 2021 and won multiple awards, including best picture, at the 2022 Canadian Screen Awards 2022.

The film has had a local and national impact, as it gives an innovative voice to ignored communities and addresses social issues, such as poverty and insufficient educational support for low-income families.

Film can increase solidarity within Scarborough: resident

According to the latest statistics from Areavibes, a website that helps people find the best places to live in the country, the rate of employment in Scarborough is given a C-. The index of the median household income is CAD$59,636, which is 28 per cent lower than the national average.

More than half of the residents in Scarborough are immigrants, with 352,635 immigrants among the whole population of 631,890 in the district, according to the 2016 Census.

Joy Ye, a 20-year-old first-time voter who lives in the Scarborough-Rouge Park riding, said the film can highlight some social problems in the community.

“The film can raise the solidarity among Scarborough as a whole,” she said.

Ye added that more community projects addressing social problems in Scarborough could be done to arouse the interest of residents to vote for the election. “Scarborough has really broken up,” she said.

SCARBOROUGH, ON-MAY 23 – Joy Ye, 20, is a voter in Scarborough-Rouge Park who lives along Conlins Road. She says the film Scarborough can tighten the cohesion and maintain the solidarity of the community as a whole because the neighbourhood has been broken down for years. Photo by Cyan Ko

Allan Row, a voter in the Scarborough district for many years, said the provincial government and media have long deemed Scarborough as a community with a negative image.

“People outside Scarborough always have a bad view of the community. However, it is relatively safer than any other part of the province such as downtown Toronto,” he said.

A Scarborough-related film that shows both the positive and negative sides of the community could help more residents to be intrigued enough to vote in the election, he added.

Election signs place on a street in Scarborough—Rouge Park. (Cyan Ko/Toronto Observer)
Election signs place on a street in Scarborough—Rouge Park riding as candidates compete for votes in the 2022 Ontario election. (Cyan Ko/Toronto Observer)

Movie reveals social inequality: advocate

Whether or not it has an impact on the voter turnouts in the election, the film is calling people’s attention to systemic failures in Scarborough, said Keyzad, the co-founder of Scarborough Studies Collective, which includes residents, artists, students and alumni of the University of Toronto Scarborough who seek to amplify Scarborough’s voice.

“This film is heartbreaking without spoiling it,” she said. The movie reveals social inequality, uneven distribution of resources, and a lack of educational support for children from low-income families, among others.

According to Keyzad, the film is not just fiction, but a true reflection on sympathy and caring as the characters in the film are based on real-life situations. “It is not abstract,” she said.

 “Scarborough is so severely underserved … people who live in Scarborough are disenfranchised.”

Niyosha keyzad
A headshot of Cara Brideau, Green Party of Ontario candidate for Scarborough Southwest. (Photo supplied by Green Party of Ontario)
Cara Brideau, Green Party of Ontario candidate for Scarborough Southwest. (Photo supplied by Green Party of Ontario)

However, Scarborough electoral candidates don’t feel the same way as residents like Ye and Row or community organizers like Keyzad.

According to Cara Brideau, Green Party of Ontario candidate for Scarborough Southwest, awareness of the film would not make a difference to the vote in general or specifically for people who are below the poverty line to vote, as they are not privileged in the community.

Brideau said people must be inspired to be more willing to contribute to the community in terms of political participation in the long term.

Voter apathy is the main cause of low voter turnout: candidate

A headshot of Raphael Rosch, president of Ontario Party and candidate for Scarborough Centre. (Photo supplied by Raphael Rosch)
Raphael Rosch, president of Ontario Party and candidate for Scarborough Centre. (Photo supplied by Raphael Rosch)

Raphael Rosch, the president of Ontario Party and the candidate for Scarborough Centre, said in an online interview that since the film is based on a Scarborough novel published by the Canadian writer Catherine Hernandez in 2017, the issues covered in the film do not belong to Scarborough specifically and it is thereby difficult to inspire people like him as an immigrant in the country.

According to Rosch, the political apathy of voters is one of the main concerns for the low voter turnout of the election and this behaviour could not be changed by producing a film.

“People don’t want to rattle the system and to shake the boat, because it would threaten their livelihoods.”

Raphael Rosch

“People consider films entertaining at best, but rarely does a film actually inspire people to get out there and do something until it hits them personally,” he said.

According to Rosch, in the upcoming election, half of Canada’s residents are expected to not even turn out to vote, and Scarborough is one of the districts with one of the lowest voter turnouts in the country.

Unless the government can convince people to get involved because there’s something big at stake that they can lose, it’s almost impossible to change the low voter turnout, he said.

Rosch suggested the candidates express to voters why the election matters to them personally to get them involved.

“Let’s be a part of the solution, rather than just complaining about the problem,” he added.

The Ontario Party is a minor social-conservative, fiscally conservative and right-wing populist political party founded in 2018.

A still image of Cherish Violet Blood, left, talking with Cherish Violet Blood, right in the film Scarborough. (Photo supplied by levelFILM)
A still image of Cherish Violet Blood, left, talking with Cherish Violet Blood, right, in the film Scarborough. (Photo supplied by levelFILM)

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Will Liberals’ COVID-19 response decide Scarborough riding?

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Posted: Jun 1 2022 12:40 pm
Filed under: Arts & Life Entertainment Features Lifestyle Vote On Scarbz