KPU to launch KDocs

Film-showcase project and public forum built to engage.

By Kier-Christer Junos
[contributing editor]

Danielle George/The Runner

Danielle George/The Runner

When a film called Miss Representation fell into the laps of KPU English teachers Janice Morris and Helen Mendes, the two documentary-enthusiasts bent on hosting a film-based event threw their hands up and said, “how hard could it be?”

Now, the group and founders behind multiple Kwantlen screening projects including Orgasm Inc. and Payback (where Margaret Atwood herself made an appearance) are poised to launch KDocs, the university’s official documentary film festival.

Co-founder Mendes is retired now, but Morris still pursues the vision they shared.

“Helen and I always had this dream,” says Morris. “Why can’t we have our own documentary film festival at Kwantlen? I don’t know what that would look like, what that would even mean—I don’t even know what that is. But we just knew that it sounded good.”

Morris says the event—which is being held on Oct. 5 at Vancity Theatre, in partnership with the Vancouver Film Festival—functions as a launch; it’s only a one-film screening, not a festival. She hopes a longer event will be organized with multiple films during the spring semester.

The inaugural KDocs is screening The Price We Pay from acclaimed documentarian Harold Crooks. The documentary had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. According to the KDocs website, the film “blows the lid off the dirty world of corporate malfeasance.”

“It’s timely, relevant, and important,” says Morris. “As with his past documentaries, with The Price We Pay Harold Crooks gives us a sobering look at the viral world of corporatization.”

Besides showcasing world-class talent, Mendes says KDocs gives people a chance to participate in discourse about issues that directly affect them. The event is open-form, meaning it’s free to register and anyone can attend. Though the inaugural KDocs is happening off-campus, Morris insists that using Vancity Theatre as the venue and partnering with VIFF are necessary first steps to help grow the KPU and KDocs brands for better impact in the future.

“If it doesn’t reach students, personally, it has no point,” says Morris. “Obviously, any festival we have, we’d want it to be all-Kwantlen-all-the-time, but it is a chance to watch something in a world class theatre.”

KDocs aims for student empowerment. Ever since the project’s genesis as The Miss Representation Action Group, Morris says that these screening projects were made to engage students. The action group actually saw documentary screenings as simply one idea; screenings simply became their major project.

“We felt like we were Robin Hood or something,” says Morris. “We were finding things on campus that needed, I’ll say, attention. We’d say things like, ‘what could you do about that?’ It often had to do with the way things were represented. Until we found out what groups were formally working on these things in the institution, we were sitting around, talking about what we could do.”

Morris talked about her time in KPU’s Foundations of Excellence project in 2011, and how she participated in a faction of the project that dealt with student engagement.

“Why aren’t they engaged?” Morris proposes. “Why are so many students— what we call parking lot students; they come in, they park their cars, go to class, go back to their cars—not engaged?” The student engagement faction questioned what it would take to engage these students, and where research existed around successful universities on this issue.

Beyond growing the KPU brand, showcasing talent, and facilitating a public forum, Morris stresses the importance of impacting students with events like KDocs.

“The fun part is that one-to-two hours in the event and when I see a huge line-up of people that want to talk,” explains Morris. “That, for me—that’s it. For a teacher, that’s what you want to see.”

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