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Okanagan documentary puts mural project in the spotlight, gets festival nod

Click to play video: 'Okanagan documentary highlights mural project'
Okanagan documentary highlights mural project
WATCH: It's been more than a year since tempers boiled over Vernon's proposed murals, but the topic is heating up again as a mini-documentary makes its way through the festival circuit. – Dec 9, 2023

A group of controversial murals that were proposed for Vernon, B.C., last year are getting a second life, in a documentary called Behind the Mask. 

In 2022 the ‘Behind the Mask’ mural project was announced; there were plans to hang large photographs of marginalized people wearing masks on buildings across the city. That caused an uproar leading to petitions and public debates about whether or not the project should move forward, and eventually, the project was shelved.

“I think the legacy will be that we’ve been able to convert this to a travelling exhibition because we have the documentary,” said Dauna Kennedy, executive director of the Vernon Public Art Gallery.

“We have created these large panels that can travel to different communities and we already have been in contact with other communities that are facing similar conversations with communities around public art as well as mental health.”

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The travelling exhibition features not just the photographs taken, but also the mask at the forefront, creating a more diversified exhibit. The film follows the creation and controversy of the mural project that highlights the mental health consequences of the pandemic.

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“It was a really important project for us and it’s that really nice piece that we can have for eternity to document what we did for our community,” said Kennedy.

To create the mural project, Calgary, Alta. based artist Katie Green was brought in.

The process involved about four different workshops that created the final product for the project. Each participant made their own mask and created a narrative and storytelling aspect to what that mask meant to them. The participants also got to select their costuming and the environment they wanted to be photographed in as it related to their character.

The mini-documentary directed by Heath Fletcher, co-owner of Sproing Creative, has hit the festival circuit and has received an honourable mention in the Making a Difference Awards category at the Commffest Global Community Film & Arts Festival in Toronto.

“Even though there was controversy and the murals didn’t make it to their final resting place on the walls of Vernon, I think that it did do its job in the sense that it triggered a lot of conversations about mental health,” said Fletcher.

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“I believe that we got much larger exposure and audience than we would’ve had we just gone up on the walls (of buildings in Vernon).”

To watch the documentary visit the Vernon Public Art Gallery’s website. 

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