Independent film-making can be difficult in Canada; especially when major Canadian broadcasters deem your subject matter unprofitable.
Such was Paul Manly’s situation when trying to pitch a feature length documentary exposing Canadian government and corporate involvement with the Interprovincial Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) and the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP)
SPP? TILMA? What? You might ask.
The documentary exposes the ongoing social-economic integration of Canada, the United States and Mexico and the deregulation involved in this elimination of borders.
However, Manly stresses that the problem is not the integration itself, which he maintains can be positive. The problem is the manner in which these three countries are fusing.
The SPP and TILMA challenge democratic authority. There is nothing legal about the dialogue; it is not a treaty or an agreement. It bypasses all three government systems in deciding how regulations and measures should be harmonized.
The main operators of this process are the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, a group of 150 CEOs currently deciding our future living and working conditions as well as our environmental and public health policies.
“What shocked me was the fact that the media wasn’t talking about it and no one really knew about it,” Manly recalled when listing his inspirations for what would eventually become his documentary You, Me, and the S.P.P: Trading Democracy for Corporate Rule.
The film was first screened on Oct. 1 at Parliament Hill and since Manly has begun a 30-city tour to promote his completed project.
The tour brought him to Laurier last Thursday, where the Communications department hosted a screening of the film in N1044 at 4 p.m.
He became involved with the topic only indirectly, while working with the Council of Canadians that was preparing a presentation DVD on TILMA.
Manly’s main inspiration came after filming three police officers who impersonated rioters during the SPP protest at the Montebello North American Leaders’ summit in 2007.
This was officially confirmed by the Quebec provincial police force; however, to this day, there remains strong speculation as to whether the officers were trying to instigate a riot within the protest to undermine the anti-SPP cause.
Manly explains that this incident further “stiffened my resolve…. I just felt like the other work I was doing was null and void based on what was happening with the SPP and how it was going to override a lot of aspects in our lives.”
Before filming began, Manly had every intention in being as journalistically objective as possible. He wanted to reveal both sides of the argument and let a balanced dialogue dominate the project instead of a one-sided opinion.
However, after 18 months of attempting to set up interviews with any of the pro-SPP and TILMA affiliates, this proved difficult.
Manly explains, “I had to rely on the information of the people who oppose this,” while still asking for documentary and material evidence so as to not base anything on speculation.
During filming, Manly realized that “trying to be objective about something like this was, in a way, supporting the status quo … I think that sometimes in life you have to take a stand in what you believe in.”
As the writer, director, editor and narrator, Manly’s vision is, indeed, imprinted on every frame of the documentary.
Interested in film as a means of self-expression and a way to reach out to people, Manly made his project as visually appealing as possible. By adding sound effects, splitting the screen and adding text, he expands on the information.
However, the technical additions are unnecessary when considering how exciting the information.
The film shockingly relates current social realities to the SPP. It highlights occurrences such as food contamination or poisoned toys, due to the extensive deregulation the non-governmental agreements produce. Watching the film also allows one to realize how under-told the story is.
The end of Manly’s film explains that the SPP is no longer an official active initiative on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) agenda. However, this in a way means that the overall issue has been forgotten.
Instead of removing the problem, the group has simply been replaced by the Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas (PPA) and subdivided into smaller sectors – not very comforting.