Runtime: 85 min
Francine Valentine, Carleen Robinson, Q’mal Labad Workman
A uniquely affecting and perceptive documentary by Charles Officer that won top honours at Hot Docs last year and a place in TIFF Canada’s Top Ten, UNARMED VERSES is first and foremost a portrait of Francine Valentine, a thoughtful youngster growing up in a low-income Toronto housing block earmarked for destruction. Yet her story becomes a means for Officer to explore a huge array of wider themes, from the impact of urban-renewal schemes on families and communities, to the hierarchies of class, race and privilege that many Canadians prefer not to acknowledge, to the value of creative expression. All that adds up to a vital and timely film that feels both acutely personal and deeply resonant.
“Few Canadian films have captured the power of raw, youthful artistic expression in the same way as Charles Officer’s moving documentary Unarmed Verses.” — Toronto Film Scene
A citizen of both Canada and the United Kingdom, Charles Officer studied at Cambridge University and graduated from the Ontario College of Art and Design. He worked as a graphic designer and creative director in Toronto before attending the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theatre in New York.
In 2002, Charles completed Short Hymn_Silent War (TIFF 2002, Sundance 2004) at the Canadian Film Centre’s director’s residency. The film earned his first Genie nomination in 2004. His debut feature, Nurse.Fighter.Boy, premiered at TIFF in 2008, screened in Berlin and at MoMA, and garnered 10 Genie nominations, including for Best Picture and Best Director.
Charles made Playback magazine’s “10 to Watch” list in 2009 and received the Ontario Premier’s Emerging Artist Award that same year. His debut feature documentary, Mighty Jerome, won four Leo Awards and a 2012 Regional Emmy Award. He was the recipient of Hot Docs’ Don Haig Award of Merit in 2012 and went on to direct an episode of the Engraved on a Nationdocumentary series, which won a 2014 Canadian Screen Award.
Charles has also directed episodes of the acclaimed television series Rookie Blue, Saving Hope and Private Eyes, starring Jason Priestly. He recently completed his second feature documentary, Unarmed Verses, produced by Lea Marin for the National Film Board of Canada. Charles returned to fiction filmmaking with the crime drama Akilla’s Escape, slated for release in 2017.