At the beginning of My Mom’s Co-op (La coop de ma mère), the filmmaker narrates, “Nothing incredible goes on here. But it’s an incredible place.”
Incredible indeed. As the region wrestles with escalating housing prices and “renovictions,” co-operative housing offers a completely different way of living, where members control their own rent increases, and manage their own governance and upkeep. In the Outaouais alone, there are more than 65 housing co-operatives providing 3,600 homes for people with low and moderate incomes, including seniors, families, newcomers and those living with a disability.
This film takes you behind the scenes at one of them—the 42-unit Co-operative d’habitation St-Louis in Gatineau. It is a close and intimate portrait of the people living there, at times tender and poignant, charming and funny.
You meet immigrants from Colombia, Somalia and Morocco who have fled unthinkably dangerous circumstances, and found a home and a kind of extended family in the co-op. There’s a young woman who dreamed of a career in international development and lived an adventurous life overseas, until she got MS. Today, she creates beautiful drawings of dancers to experience the movement that otherwise eludes her. Then there’s the filmmaker’s mother, who you soon discover was one of the first to teach women’s self-defense in the region, and found her true self in second-wave feminism.
“When I focused my camera on the St-Louis co-op, where my mother lives, I saw a particular kind of multi-cultural, multi-generational melting pot—a better way of living together.”
The 79-minute movie is written and directed by Québec filmmaker Ève Lamont, who has tackled many social justice issues during her 30-year career making documentaries. “I’ve wanted to take a look at the cooperative housing model for a while. When I focused my camera on the St-Louis co-op, where my mother lives, I saw a particular kind of multi-cultural, multi-generational melting pot—a better way of living together.”
The film screening at ByTowne Cinema on December 13 is presented by Ottawa’s Sandy Hill Housing Co-op, which houses approximately 150 people in 63 units near uOttawa campus, and was founded in 1984. Gillian Graham is on its board of directors, and has lived and raised her family here for 14 years. “Our co-op not only provides stability in the neighbourhood, it also supports local businesses through partnerships like this one with the ByTowne.”
My Mom’s Co-op (La coop de ma mère) is playing on Monday, December 13 at 6:45pm at the ByTowne Cinema. It is screened in French with English subtitles. Tickets are $10 and available online or at the door. For pay-what-you-can tickets, e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>.