An Alberta filmmaker wants to show a more humanizing side to people who experienced racism in Canada.
Calvin Hudson Hwang is an award-winning director and producer from Edmonton. His documentary, What Flowers They Bloom, illustrates the implications of racism and stigmatization mainly through the eyes of a man named Andy.
Andy is a Chinese Canadian flower shop owner in Toronto who experienced a traumatic racist experience in his shop at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The film not only documents the incident but the lasting impact it had on Andy’s mental health.
The film also highlights others’ experiences with racism and what trauma looks like for them.
“Part of the reason racism exists is because people don’t see others as humans or as equals. I think that’s a thing that we can all learn about,” he told Global News.
But Hwang emphasized the film does not portray his characters as victims. Instead, it portrays them as human beings, something he said was lacking in a lot of news coverage throughout the pandemic.
“Within certain racialized communities culturally, talking about mental health is highly stigmatized. Part of the film is to engage in dialogue, to normalize these kinds of conversations so people feel comfortable coming forward to talk about mental health issues in racialized communities,” he said.
“I think there are a lot of themes that are relevant to anyone that exists in this society. How do we better promote equality and greater empathy for one another?”
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Hwang added he wants the film shown in schools all across Alberta as part of equity, diversity and inclusion lessons.
“We’ve been lucky to partner with some schools in Ontario where we’ve done some screenings with students through various teachers, and the response rate has been really, really powerful,” he said.
“It’s really, really important that students get to see people like themselves on the screen, to see their issues addressed on screen, and also presenting the issue in a way where they’re inspired to take positive action to support their community.
“We really encourage people to look at others with wonder as opposed to fear.”
Hwang said What Flowers They Bloom will be shown in screenings across the country first before being put up online. The film was shown at the Calgary Public Library’s main branch on Friday evening.