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Ninth Floor

Directed by Mina Shum
Canada, 2015 (documentary, 81 minutes, colour / black and white, English)
Also known as "Neuvième étage"
Ninth Floor
Photo © National Film Board of Canada
Video (National Film Board of Canada)

Film Description:
"It started quietly when a group of Caribbean students, strangers in a cold new land, began to suspect their professor of racism. It ended in the most explosive student uprising Canada had ever known. Over four decades later, Ninth Floor reopens the file on the infamous Sir George Williams Riot -- a watershed moment in Canadian race relations and one of the most contested episodes in the nation's history. Making a compassionate and audacious foray into non-fiction, writer and director Mina Shum locates the protagonists in clandestine locations throughout Trinidad and Montreal, the wintry city where it all went down. In a cinematic gesture of reckoning and redemption, she listens as they set the record straight -- and lay their burden down. Can we make peace with the past? What lessons have we learned? What really happened up there on the 9th floor?"
-- National Film Board of Canada (source)

Film Credits (partial):
Written by: Mina Shum
Produced by: Selwyn Jacob, Shirley Vercruysse
Participants: Rodney John, Clarence Bayne, Anne Cools, Nantali Indongo, Robert Hubsher, Claude-Armand Sheppard, Noel Lyon, Marvin Coleby, Duff Anderson, Naim Indongo-Bangoura, Bukka Rennie, Terrence Ballantyne, Valerie Belgrave, Hugo Ford, Lynne Murray, Mark Chang
Cinematography: John Price
Film Editing: Carmen Pollard
Music: Brent Belke
Production Company: National Film Board of Canada / Office national du film du Canada

Notes about Ninth Floor


Quotes by the Director

"And I thought, What's the best way to talk about racism in a documentary [Ninth Floor]? You've got that central metaphor. Those guys were under surveillance for no reason other than the colour of their skin. That era was also a great time in cinema where you had the paranoid trilogy from (American director) Alan J. Pakula, and The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974). There was this beautiful marriage of what was happening cinematically language-wise in American cinema at the time and also what was happening with the student protest movement. So I decided that a way to try and tell this was to make us feel like we're being watched."
-- Mina Shum (source)

"I had never heard of the story, but as soon as [Selwyn Jacob approached me about the project], I started researching and was quickly convinced that it should be a feature film. What really struck me was what was at stake for the occupiers, their loss of innocence. They really believed they could change things, then they had their hearts broken."
-- Mina Shum (source)

Quotes about Ninth Floor

"Through a series of interviews with the principals, from both sides, in the occupation as well as archival footage, [Mina Shum] has fashioned both a balanced and poignant picture of these divisive events. She also brings to light elements that many were unaware of at the time. Credit must also go to the doc's determined producer, Selwyn Jacob. Although he was a student at the University of Alberta at the time, the riot had a profound effect on him, largely because several of his fellow Trinidadian friends were involved in the protests. He pledged then that if he were ever to go to film school he would one day make a documentary on the subject. He did, and he has made good on his promise."
-- Bill Brownstein (source)

"I was confident because I knew what kind of archival material there was [for Ninth Floor] and I knew we had a number of interesting characters. So if I could get someone to direct who could challenge us in terms of taking a cinematic approach to telling the story, I was fairly certain it would all come together. Mina [Shum] was able to bring such originality to it all, both on a visual and on a narrative level."
-- Selwyn Jacob (source)

"Less than 10 minutes into the revealing documentary Ninth Floor [...] filmmaker Mina Shum has already offered shocking snapshots of racial discontent in Montreal, Canada, 1969. Over 81 minutes of rarely seen and chilling archival footage, juxtaposed against skillfully positioned current testimony from black and white students who were in the eye of the conflict, Ninth Floor peels back the curtain on a time few remember and most of us never knew existed."
-- Royson James (source)

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