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Use only once and destroy

by Archives March 24, 2009

Watching someone moan and cry for their fix is frustratingly heart-wrenching. As a street nurse, Caroline Brunt lives this reality more than full time. Her benevolence means keeping track of users, abusers and anyone barely clinging to life on the streets of Vancouver. What’s reassuring in the film Bevel Up is that her work is not in vain.
Bevel Up is screening next Monday at Cinema Politica along with Carts of Darkness. In true Cinema Politica form, both films effectively expose us to social phenomena that we would never otherwise be able to appreciate.
While most people don’t give Vancouver’s drug abusers and prostitutes even an ounce of compassion, in Bevel Up, Caroline makes sure they have plenty of needles and sterile water. She provides blood tests for STDs. She’ll make them laugh from time to time and she’ll hear them out when they have a complaint, even is it’s for some more smack.
The film does an excellent job documenting a street workers patrol, but it lacks when it comes to any critical comment or response to the work. Everyone has an opinion when it comes to how to treat habitual abusers, except for this film.
In one scene, it feels as though Caroline’s team has the chance to educate a girl on the common outcomes of a life on the street. The girl just ran away from home; she is three days fresh into her life in Vancouver.
Instead they respect her volition without even the lightest level of intervention. When they do this, you can’t help but wonder if this isn’t the origin of the problem and the right place to start offering help.
The second film of the evening at Cinema Politica goes from the back alleys to the sloped streets of North Vancouver, where Big Al and a gang of entrepreneurial daredevils make collecting cans an extreme sport. Carts of Darkness has lots of side car shots of shopping carts rattling down traffic at upwards of 70 k/m per hour with dirty 30-somethings at the helm, drinking the wind, collecting cans.
Big Al, Fergie and Frank along with other colourful itinerants give us a glimpse of what might arguably have the workings of a thriving subculture, save the awkward depression and alcoholism so commonplace in the life of a bum.
The director’s story is equally compelling. This is Muray Siple’s first film since his accident, which has rendered him a quadrapolegic. Siple directed snowboard videos before his 1996 car crash. His state adds the proper amount of intrigue to make the documentary all the more important.
What’s most telling about the film is the irrationality of the whole sport (then again, the same could be said of snowboarding). Riders go through rubber souls in a grind-stone fashion and carts break down almost daily. This isn’t exactly cheap when you go binning for a living.
While both films are only barely entertaining, they are nonetheless great topics for discussion. Neither are flashy or highhanded in any way, instead their mater-of-factness and sensitivity heave a lot of questions at the audience that are left unanswered or explored. Expect the films to peak your curiosity and inspire you to wonder about the highs and lows of life on the street.

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