Spirited look at Citizen Sam 

Documentary of Vancouver mayor is all over the map

Citizen Sam wheels the audience through the last 67 days leading up to Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan’s election last fall as part of the Whistler Film Festival’s DocTalk special screening Wednesday, Nov. 29 at 8 p.m. at MY Millennium Place.

No surprise ending here. The film instead softly focuses on the series of events and thoughts leading up to voting day. The story is set up in a stereotypical David and Goliath parable with the quadriplegic city councilor throwing his hat into the mayoralty race.

I hoped to arrive at a better understanding of what made this man great; why he was chosen as mayor, not the nut job, do-nothing politician media pegged him to be. Only I was left with a vague, disjointed collection of a regular man grappling with the throes of the campaign trail along with the challenges a quadriplegic faces in something as simple as removing a T-shirt before bed. The images didn’t elicit pity or admiration. He was like any other politician going about his day, getting caught up in the frustration of sensationalized media coverage one minute, then chuckling over needing to bleach his teeth, wondering if the guy with the whitest teeth wins in another.

Hurried music and an episodic litter of images illustrating Sullivan’s campaign trail are interspersed with quieter, more introspective reflections on his fight for City Hall in personal dairies.

The story challenges disabled stereotypes, including Sullivan’s decision to kill funding for arts and childcare, and offers a gritty and honest account of how he faced public scrutiny. But, the film raises more questions than answers. What made Sam the best candidate? Does Sam have a duty to become an active voice for the physically challenged? And how does the mayor feel about having his life so intimately exposed? Maybe in that vulnerability the film itself is his active voice.

Tickets for the thought-provoking film are $10.


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