thepushcityhall-joeycolemanLast fall, at the Hamilton Film Festival, we [HamiltonSeen] debuted a film about our city hall, journalism, the abuse of a journalist, and free speech, called The Push. Raise the Hammer described it as a “far-ranging examination of Hamilton’s toxic political culture.” The headline in The Spectator read, “New film raises bothersome questions about city hall culture.” The debut of the film was an important goal for us. We were proud to raise issues of vital concern to our community. It was some time, however, after we completed The Push before we actually debuted it. We kept setting it aside.

We found the release of two films (the other was Soapbox) in August 2016 (particularly The Push and the hubbub surrounding it) hugely stressful, so we set the film aside for a bit.

When the death threats came, we set the film aside for a bit.

The making of a film that only a few hundred people had seen was interfering with our ability to work with community organizations in Hamilton and to volunteer our time and skills as we often do, so we set the film aside for a bit.

We realized having made the film was messing with a bunch of jobs we’d normally have gotten, so we set the film aside for a bit.

We discovered that just being in the film could mess with people’s working lives and that even eight months later there were weird machinations of vengeance happening that needed time and space to sort out, so we set the film aside for a bit.

A year had gone by.

Then we realized that people who had never seen the film and should not have power over it were dictating what we did with it. So, we decided at last to release it.

We like to look at making The Push as a good case study of two things: the importance of independent journalism and how screwed up things are within City Hall in Hamilton.

This has never been a film about any particular councillor. Our intention in releasing it isn’t rooted in re-raising an issue from the past. We believed that people who hadn’t seen the film had a mistaken impression about it and our intentions.

Looking at how our city, nation, and world function, it strikes us that any in-depth analysis of the machinations of those in power illuminates the same basic issues. The film is an example of such,  not at all created to attack so much as reveal.

It’s a film about how institutions don’t keep up and about how much those enmeshed in the political processes avoid transparency and accountability. It’s an important look into how things still function in Hamilton.

Ultimately, we made this film so that we could understand why one of our local journalists felt the need to leave the city after what seemed a straightforward incident that should have resolved itself. In producing the documentary, we discovered that our local bureaucracy is more of a mess than we ever imagined.

The Push is a civic offering.

A moment with journalist, Joey Coleman. (If you are reading this feature from an email subscription, you will have to link through directly to the Zine to view the two short videos included here.)


© words and illustration, Zena Hagerty and Cody Lanktree, all rights reserved
Originally published in Raise the Hammer and published here with the permission of the authors.

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