Since the repeal of Canada’s long-gun registry, gun sales are up, gun clubs are booming, and a once silent minority is coming out of the closet. Tired of the stigma associated with owning guns, and emboldened by recent wins in the gun control battle, Canadian gun owners are on the offensive.Up In Arms: How the Gun Lobby is Changing Canada takes viewers inside a subculture that is just now coming out of the shadows. With an estimated 10 million guns in Canadian homes, Canada ranks 13th among gun-toting nations. For every one hundred Canadians there are 24 firearms. This feature documentary immerses viewers in our country’s evolving gun culture to witness the evangelical zeal with which gun owners like John Evers and Tony Bernardo are winning converts, and building a pro-gun lobby in the image of America’s National Rifle Association.
What impact will the pro-gun lobby have on Canada’s urban centres where a growing number of communities are plagued by poverty, crime and gun violence? In Toronto’s high-priority neighbourhood of Weston-Mount Dennis, we follow youths involved in a program designed to keep them away from guns, gangs and drugs. They are all threatened by the presence of guns in their community. Each of them knows someone who has been shot or carried a gun for protection. Their reality is juxtaposed against the views of law-abiding gun owners, and the call for reduced gun control legislation.
In Hamilton, Paulette Langlois has been selling guns for almost 30 years. She’s at war with her neighbours and politicians who want to hamper her business. Amidst the gentrification of Locke Street, Al Simmons Gun Shop is a beehive of activity with four salesmen on the floor and a gunsmith in the basement. Paulette’s customers run the gamut from doctors and lawyers, to retired police officers and seasoned hunters. Her neighbours want her gone, but Paulette’s more inclined to stay. Each year she sets up a booth to display her guns at the Locke Street Fair. Despite vandals and break-ins, Al Simmons is not moving shop.
Up In Arms follows the unfolding stories of our characters within these strikingly different communities. Their perspectives are contextualized by disturbing statistics about the relationship between deregulation and gun violence. Convicted gun trafficker, Ricardo Tolliver, offers a chilling explanation about why more than 70 percent of Canada’s crime guns come from the United States, and it has everything to do with gun laws. But recently more and more crime guns are originating in Canada. In Toronto, half of all guns used in crimes are now being sourced from Canadian gun stores or gun owners.
Canada is the only country in the world repealing gun control legislation. The result has been a steady increase in the number of gun sales and sport shooters, alongside a rise in gun violence in our most vulnerable communities.
Is this where Canada is headed? A world of two extremes, divided by the gun, and motivated by fear?
JOHN EVERS bought his first gun at 19 and now owns more than 65. A passionate advocate for personal firearms ownership, John takes a special interest in introducing youth, the next generation, to shooting. As Ontario Regional Director for the Canadian Shooting Sports Association and past President of the East Elgin Sportsmen’s Association, he’s raised his own kids with guns in their hands. A ball of energy with a salesman’s patter, this preacher will take his pulpit wherever there’s an audience, pitching the pro-gun cause to one, two or a few at a time – whether at his club’s open house, a gun show or a university classroom.
PAULETTE LANGLOIS owns one of the busiest gun stores in southern Ontario. Al Simmons Gun Shop has anchored Hamilton’s Locke Street South since 1969, through the neighborhood’s evolution from a district in decline to trendy restaurant row. Viewed as a social blight by some of her neighbouring businesses and residents, Paulette is targeted by hostile critics and brazen criminals alike – but Al Simmons is here to stay. What began as a single rack holding 10 long guns has grown to a store with nearly 300 firearms on display.
TONY BERNARDO is the Executive Director of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association and a full-time Canadian firearms lobbyist. The man behind the destruction of Canada’s long-gun registry, his focus now is shepherding the federal government’s Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act through Parliament. With the clock ticking towards a federal election, one of the most high-profile shootings in Canadian history dominates the headlines, and threatens to kill the bill. But with access to the backrooms of Parliament and the highest levels of the NRA, Tony is a powerful force in shaping Canada’s gun laws.
ALEX grew up surrounded by drugs and crime in Toronto’s Regent Park mourning close friends lost to gun violence. Now, at 18, she’s out of her old neighbourhood and trying to put the street life behind her. She’s joined a community program for at-risk youths in Toronto’s Weston-Mount Dennis neighborhood, another area stigmatized by poverty, crime and gunfire. All of the youth in the program have been impacted by the presence of guns in their community. Back in school and determined to be a role model for her younger siblings, Alex takes the first tentative steps toward a better future.
RODERICK BRERETON as the co-founder of Urban Rez Solutions, Roderick draws on his own experiences with crime and poverty growing up in Scarborough to connect with his young clients. Combining street smarts, a sociology degree and the youth cred of his career as an urban music artist, Roderick thinks outside the box. His program Take Back Your World, Navigate Your Life searches for the best hook that will keep each young participant out of jail and on the way to a safer, more successful future.
BILL BLAIR, a policeman’s son, grew up and raised his family in Scarborough, a Toronto suburb that’s seen more than its share of crime. Bill began his 10 years as Toronto’s Police Chief in 2005, a time when the city was experiencing crime and violence at levels that hadn’t been seen since the 1970s. His community-based policing approach won both praise and criticism. He believes the best defense against gun violence are laws that control the accessibility of guns -- and he makes a dramatic comparison between two cities, one American, one Canadian, to prove it.
RICCARDO TOLLIVER is an American who came to Canada to buy marijuana, and ended up masterminding the largest cross-border gun smuggling operation in Canadian history. A bright and charismatic university graduate who was once headed for law school, he is now serving a 32-year prison sentence in a U.S. Federal Penitentiary. He offers up the smuggler’s perspective on how gun laws impact the illegal gun trade, and whether authorities have a shot at battling the black market
Director, Writer, Producer
Nadine Pequeneza began her career as a broadcast journalist working with Canada’s flagship news and current affairs programs – CTV’s W5 and CBC’s The National. For the past 17 years, she has created award-winning documentaries for Canadian and international audiences. Nadine’s HitPlay Productions strives to tell character-driven stories that captivate, entertain and educate. Her work has screened at festivals around the world from Toronto, to Milan, to Prague to Sichuan. She is a four-time Canada Screen Award Nominee in both directing and writing categories.
Among her feature documentaries are 15 to Life: Kenneth’s Story, about a 15-year-old sentenced to life in prison for armed robbery and his quest for redemption following a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision. An Honouree at the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Awards, the film aired across the United States on PBS in 2014. For her documentary series Inside Disaster Haiti, Nadine spent six months embedded with International Federation of Red Cross relief teams after the devastating 2010 earthquake, earning a Gemini Nomination for Best Directing in a Documentary Program, a Special Jury Award at the Sichuan Film Festival, and Official selections at the One World International Human Rights Documentary Festival and Milano Film Festival. In 2005 Aristide’s Haiti won a Gold Plaque at the Chicago International Film Festival and was Gemini nominated for Best Writing in a Documentary Program. Raising Cassidy, the story of a crack-addicted mother trying to regain custody of her child, was an official selection at Hot Docs Toronto International Festival and Rencontres Internationales du Documentaires de Montréal.
Nadine’s upcoming projects include the story of an international movement that’s bringing together big capital and charity to create innovative social programs, and the future of legal euthanasia in Canada.
Stan Barua’s work in documentary and drama has attracted accolades and awards on five continents. Born in Poland where he earned his MA in Cinematography from the National Film School in Lodz, he also lived and worked in Kenya before moving to Canada in 1998.
His credits include Baba’s House (Best Cinematography Award, Yorkton Short Film Festival; Eastman Kodak Cinematography Award, Houston International Film Festival; Best Canadian Short Drama Award, Atlantic Film Festival), Rain (Best Atlantic Canada Short Film Award, Atlantic Film Festival), Forgotten Places (Best Cinematography Award, Warsaw Terra Film Festival), and The Seas of Zanzibar.
Stan’s non-fiction book I Shot My Human Being: On Spirited Cinematography will be published later this year. He is now writing a crime drama feature film set in Europe, Africa and Canada.
Sought-after documentary editor Denis Takacs has worked in the Canadian documentary film and television industry for the past 25 years. His films have won numerous awards and reached wide audiences in Canada and abroad.
Denis edited the National Film Board of Canada’s House Calls, the touching story of a physician who photographs his patients to highlight the lack of adequate home care for the elderly in Canada. House Calls won Best Social/Political Documentary at the Gemini Awards; Speakers for the Dead, winner of Best Documentary, Reel Black Film Awards, for revealing black history once lost beneath an Ontario potato patch; Raising the Kursk, Gold Medal winner for Best Science Documentary at the Columbus International Film and Video Festival; and Kivalina vs Exxon, Best Documentary, Whistler Film Festival.
Ricardo Acosta, C.C.E., immigrated to Canada from his native Cuba in 1993. He is a Sundance alumni and has edited award-winning documentaries, including Herman’s House, which premiered at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival and won an Emmy; Marmato, for which he won Best Editor in a Documentary from the Canadian Cinema Editor Awards, Sembene!, which premiered at Sundance and screened at Cannes in 2015, and The Take, directed by Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis, which was an official selection at the Venice Film Festival and for which Ricardo was nominated for a Best Picture Editing Gemini Award.
Accomplished pianist, conductor and composer Alex Khaskin has been making music from an early age, attending a school for the musically gifted and winning the St. Petersburg Young Composers’ Festival prize in his native Russia. Since moving to Canada in the 1990s, he has scored music for dozens of film, television and documentary projects, including My Opposition, Adult Overnight, Crimes of the Heart and Living through Dying. He is the composer of a contemporary classical music symphony, a violin concerto, two cello concertos, concertos for piano, a triple concerto for violin, viola and cello and a string quartet, as well as choral and vocal works.
New Feature-Length Documentary
UP IN ARMS: How The Gun Lobby Is Changing Canada
Takes Aim at the Gun Control Debate
World Broadcast Premiere on TVO Wednesday, September 23 at 9 pm.
(Toronto, September 3, 2015) – Up In Arms: How the Gun Lobby is Changing Canada, a new documentary by Nadine Pequeneza (Inside Disaster Haiti) and produced by HitPlay Productions, makes its world broadcast premiere on TVO Wednesday, September 23 at 9 pm.
In Up In Arms, the Toronto-based filmmaker explores the rising level of private gun ownership and sport shooting in Canada against the backdrop of further gun deregulation and escalating gun violence in Canada’s most vulnerable communities.
Pequeneza filmed the project over two years and was granted rare access to record documentary footage at gun shows, dealers and competitions, as well as inside the world’s largest firearms trade show in Las Vegas.
“Canada is at a crossroads with regard to gun control legislation,” says Up In Arms director/producer, Nadine Pequeneza. “Which path we choose will have significant, long-term implications for our society. I hope this film encourages Canadians to begin a much-needed discussion about the future of gun control.”
Emboldened by the recent repeal of the long-gun registry, Canada’s gun lobby is pushing for further deregulation. Up In Arms follows Tony Bernardo, Executive Director of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association (CSSA) and a full-time Canadian firearms lobbyist, as he shepherds Bill C-42, a new, less restrictive gun law, through Parliament. The film also talks to gun owners like John Evers, Ontario Regional Director for the CSSA and past president of the East Elgin Sportsmen’s Association. Evers has raised his own kids around guns and takes a special interest in introducing Canadian youth, the next generation, to sport shooting. In Hamilton, Up In Arms meets with gun store owner Pauline Langlois, who has become a pariah in the gentrified neighbourhood where her store Al Simmons Gun Shop has operated for more than 40 years.
To most gun owners guns signify sport and recreation, but in Canada’s poorest neighbourhoods, where the vast majority of shootings occur, guns are the cause of fear and deadly violence. Up In Arms talks to former Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair who feels that laws and anti-gang initiatives are only a start to reducing violence, and thinks that action has to be taken at a community level to help young people make better choices. Roderick Brereton, a youth counsellor in Toronto’s Weston-Mount Dennis area, runs a program aimed at steering at risk kids away from gangs, drugs and guns. One of his group is Alex, who grew up surrounded by guns and crime in Toronto’s Regent Park and is now, at age 18, trying to turn her life around. She talks about the demand for guns and the impact of easy access.
Up In Arms will be repeated on TVO on Wednesday, September 23 at midnight, on Friday, September 25 at 10 pm, and on Sunday, September 27 at 11 pm. TVO will also offer the film for free online viewing at www.tvo.org beginning Thursday, September 24.
Up In Arms also has an interactive website, funded by TVO and the Bell Fund, launching on August 28, 2015, called Up In Arms: What Do You Think? It will offer a rich interactive experience, inviting users to learn and share their opinions about issues related to gun control and public safety. Check it out at http://www.upinarms.ca/
Up In Arms is a HitPlay Production and was commissioned by TVO in association with Knowledge Network and SRC, with the participation of The Bell Fund, The Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit, and the Ontario Media Development Corporation Film and Television Tax Credit.About HitPlay Productions
HitPlay Productions is a Toronto-based production company specializing in social issue documentaries with the potential to engage audiences in the world around them. Founded in 2000 by award-winning filmmaker Nadine Pequeneza. Among her feature documentaries are 15 to Life: Kenneth’s Story, about a 15-year-old sentenced to life in prison for armed robbery and his quest for redemption following a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision. An Honouree at the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Awards, the film aired across the United States on PBS in 2014. For her documentary series Inside Disaster Haiti, Nadine spent six months embedded with International Federation of Red Cross relief teams after the devastating 2010 earthquake, earning a Gemini Nomination for Best Directing in a Documentary Program, a Special Jury Award at the Sichuan Film Festival, and Official selections at the One World International Human Rights Documentary Festival and Milano Film Festival.Website: http://www.upinarms.ca/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/upinarmsdoc Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/upinarmsdoc
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