Large crowd takes in documentary at Central Community Church
The parking lot of Central Community Church was overflowing with vehicles sporting Canadian flags and anti-Trudeau stickers for a screening last Sunday of the controversial documentary “Unacceptable?”
Producer Ben Haab said the film tries to bridge the gap between those in support of vaccine mandates and those against them.
“Unacceptable?” made its NOTL premiere at 6 p.m. at the church facility on York Road and attracted an audience of more than 250.
People from around Niagara, including St. Catharines and Port Colborne, came out to take in the two-and-a-half-hour movie followed by a Q&A with producers and others featured in the film.
The movie focuses on the trucker Freedom Convoy that made its way to Ottawa last year to protest mask and vaccine mandates in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first part of the film, titled “How Did We Get Here,” featured words from the Pituley family, who spoke about the trouble they encountered having unvaccinated children and how mandates have affected them “more than COVID ever has.”
The film also touched on subjects including the mainstream media, Christianity and government control.
During the film’s third chapter, “The Divide,” clips of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explaining the importance of getting vaccinated were met with boos and heckling from the audience, while remarks from Donald Trump received hoots and hollers of approval.
Snippets of news broadcasts labelling convoy participants as racists were also met with scoffs of disagreement.
Romanian-born trucker and convoy participant Csaba Vizi’s tales from his experience were met with the most cheers and applause, as he detailed his dedication to the cause, despite his arrest in Ottawa where he says he was beaten by police.
Given the controversial content of the film, Haab said the group had a difficult time finding a place to premiere the film before Central Community Church gave the green light.
“We like to premiere in movie theatre just because that’s the highest quality we can get for image and sound,” Haas said.
“Because of the content, a lot of theatres without watching it, will think it’s inciting violence and all that kind of stuff, so we quite often will get denied the rental of theatre units.”
Asked why Central Community Church allowed the screening, facilities caretaker Sara Riveria said the church intends to lend itself as a community space.
“We act as a community centre, so the church rents space from the venue and anyone else who also comes in also rents space so my role is simply to provide event space for any guests that want to come in,” she said.
“The space is multipurpose and it’s meant for community members.”
Haab said the group had numerous requests from Niagara residents to screen the film locally.
“That’s been the majority of where we’ve shown the film, the last 50 or so locations have been by request. Once we get three or four requests from a particular area, then we start inquiring.”
Niagara in particular has its own convoy “community,” which was out in force for the screening.
Karen Hilts, a member of the convoy group and a Central Community Church member, said it was important to show the documentary in NOTL because Niagara has been receptive to the convoy supporters’ efforts.
“We have a lot of people who I would say are awake to what it is we are fighting for,” said Hilts.
At this point, that fight is still primarily around mandates, but also other so-called technological developments.
“In the beginning we were really focused on the mandates and getting them dropped, which for the most part that has happened,” she said.
“Our community is concerned about things going on with digital ID, smart cities that are starting to pop up around the world. We know this is not just a (small) problem. This is a global problem.”
The Niagara convoy plans events nearly every weekend and promotes them on social media, Hilts said.
“We often see those black flags, with the eff Trudeau on it,” she said.
“We don’t really like those. That’s not who we are and we want people to take us seriously. We don’t want to annoy people. We just want people to listen.”