IN REVIEW: Rebuild - local filmmaker highlighted at Grand Forks film fest

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
March 5th, 2012

Rebuilding in tough economic times takes a lot of drive from those who make up their community and for the east coast island of Cape Breton trade unions have been instrumental in creating change. Filmmaker Nik Green’s first feature length documentary, aired at the World Traveling Film Festival in Grand Forks last week, captured the commitment of the trades unions of Cape Breton as they work to ignite change and rejuvenate their home.

Produced in the spring of 2011, Rebuild was shot in dozens of locations across Cape Breton with interviews of unionized tradespeople, contractors, and families from the island communities. The story’s focus is on the renewal their community has seen with the help of the trade unions over the past few years from environmental rehabilitation projects, to support for youth to learn trades and deep links to families of union members.

Green, who worked with Rebecca Babcock, took viewers through some of the dark history of the trade unions in Cape Breton whose past is marred by union riots, torched buildings and wildcat walkouts. But today’s leaders are quick to point out that those controversies are in the past which Green emphasized by capturing contractors comments indicating their preference for unionized sites over non-union because of their extensive training and safety records.

The film takes one step further with the story of a union member who was seriously burned when his house exploded from a gas leak. In his long and painful recovery, his union colleagues literally rebuilt his home for free for his family of five children. This labour story goes beyond the usual societal impression of labour unions to demonstrate the power of the movement to help family, friends and even the economy of their community.

Green’s past work has been promotional videos for tourism, production of a travel show for television, and production of Common Grounds, where viewers experience espresso across Canada. This documentary is a jumping off point to another film direction for Green, and he crossed the boundary well.

Although the topic was not particularly of interest to a Grand Forks audience, the story line was clear and Green was successful at telling a full story while not getting stuck in the negative, more sensational aspects of the history of the trade unions. He rounded the story off well by juxtapositioning the rather wild history of the union movement in Cape Breton with the positive efforts of their current drive to revive their communities.

The film suffered from some sound track issues. I found at times that the music was too loud, and ended abruptly drawing my attention away from the film’s content and not remaining in the background to enhance the film. Some of Green’s camera work could have been smoother in transitions, adding to the choppy feeling at times.

Overall, this first time delving into the documentary genre for Green was well produced, and the story line was well laid out giving viewers a glimpse into what is possible for communities if people work together.

The audience enjoyed the film and appeared to be interested in Green’s next documentary in production this year – Fierceheart: is a fed bear a dead bear? – where the skills he demonstrated in Rebuild will be amplified as he explores options for the growing human/bear conflicts in B.C.

Rebuild              2011           44 Minutes

Producers: Nik Green and Rebecca Babcock

Independent film