It seems like every few weeks there’s a news story from somewhere in North America – a mentally ill person in crisis, shot dead by police. This documentary deconstructs why it’s happening – how officers trained to ‘serve and protect’ somehow end up shooting vulnerable people. Can police be trained to hold their fire?
Filmmaker Maureen Palmer set out to make a documentary following her partner Mike Pond – a psychotherapist and an alcoholic 5 years sober – as he searched for the best new evidence-based addiction treatments. The intent was to help others battling substance use disorders.
But shortly after filming begins, Mike drinks again. A theoretical journey becomes very real, deeply personal – and urgent.
Mike barely survived his last trip to rock bottom. He’d been a successful therapist helping others battle addiction, for two decades before succumbing to one himself. He lost everything and ended up homeless on Vancouver’s notorious downtown eastside. For two years before he got clean, Pond bounced between the streets and rundown recovery homes. The only treatment: Alcoholics Anonymous.
But Mike could not get sober in the program. And he’s not alone. In fact, AA does not work for the majority who try it, leaving many to feel like failures. Remarkably, most doctors still believe it’s the only effective treatment for addiction, insisting their patients attend meetings instead of offering them proven evidence-based alternatives.
In Wasted Mike and Maureen reveal a revolution in addiction research and treatment, making a powerful case for an expanded tool kit to treat our number one public health care problem.
Written and directed by Maureen Palmer.
A generation ago, a woman who liked sex went to great lengths to hide it. Not anymore, as revealed in a provocative new CBC documentary. The Truth About Female Desire, premiering on CBC Television’s Doc Zone Thursday February 12th at 9:00 pm (9:30 pm NT), smashes centuries-old constructs designed to control female sexuality and celebrates women brave enough to appear as sexual beings on national TV, slut-shamers be damned.
From 18 to 80, Canadian women reject outdated, sexist and simply wrong-headed ideas about female desire. Ideas like: Women don’t like sex as much as men. Women over 50 are done with sex. Women are afraid of casual sex. Married women don’t care about sex anymore. Women are reluctant to engage in edgy sex play. All wrong, as The Truth About Female Desire powerfully demonstrates.
For millennia, female sexuality was something to be controlled (chastity belts), punished (female adulterers burned at the stake), or labeled as insane (highly sexual women locked in asylums). Things finally began to change in the mid-20th century as the advent of birth control and feminism ushered in the sexual revolution. University of Washington sexuality expert Dr. Pepper Schwartz: “Women discover themselves now because they’re not going to get stoned to death, they’re not going to lose their jobs, they’re not going to have their kids taken away from them because they’ve had an affair. That changes the whole equation.”
Now it’s the digital revolution that’s putting the power to choose directly in women’s hands. From young women hooking up on Tinder, to senior women finding lovers on craigslist, Canadian women unabashedly pursue their desire.
Canadian women are getting more playful in the bedroom. Sex toy sales have exploded. “Fifty Shades of Grey was the game changer,” says Carlyle Jansen, owner of Good For Her, the Toronto women’s sex store.
In a 2014 Canadian Living Magazine sex survey, 56 percent of respondents reported a one-night stand, almost 1/3 revealed they’d watched a sexual encounter, and more than 1/3 of respondents admitted to trying bondage. On her Divorced Not Dead blog, Delaine Moore revealed she’d met a man online who turned her on to dominance and submission play – and she loves it: “Just that primal (feeling of) being pinned against the wall. Actually allowing myself to accept that that’s a part of me and it is something that I want to enjoy, that was a huge step.”
“With the movie Fifty Shades of Grey slated to open in North America this Valentine’s Day, we thought there was a great opportunity to add an important dimension to last year’s volatile debate about consent,” says The Truth About Female Desire director Maureen Palmer.
“The freedom to say a confident yes to sex is arguably as important a conversation as that surrounding a firm no. It’s truly the other side of the coin that is the acceptance of women’s sexual rights. Women are caught in a catch-22. We are urged to provide enthusiastic consent, yet women who do so are often still considered sluts, vilified online and in real life. Women, unlike men, are still shamed for their sexual behaviour. Our film introduces viewers to a variety of trailblazers, courageous women who put their face and name to their need to be sexual, women who want to slay the sexual double standard, once and for all.”
This February, love in a cold climate gets very very hot – as Canadian women tell The Truth About Female Desire.
Written and directed by Maureen Palmer.
For the first time in North American history, more children suffer from mental health conditions than from physical ones. Parents are coping with staggering levels of anger, aggression, and other behaviour problems. Experts in child development believe the problem is going to get worse, not better, because too many parents are too busy, too stressed, or too poor to invest in the most important time in a child’s life: the first six years. Angry Kids & Stressed Out Parents follows parents and children through proven early childhood interventions to show young lives transformed, social problems solved and billions of taxpayers dollars saved.
Directed by Lionel Goddard and Helen Slinger for CBC Television's Doc Zone - Nov 21, 2013.
Cranes dominate the skyline as vertical villages spring up in inner cities across the country. People are flocking back downtown in record numbers. Last year builders launched construction on a record 44 thousand new condos in Toronto alone.
This urban renaissance promises a walkable lifestyle – shrinking the homeowner’s environmental footprint and diminishing urban sprawl. But the building boom often outpaces urban planning – bringing schools, sewers, hospitals, and transportation systems to the breaking point. And Canadians simply searching for a place to call home are generally unaware of the complexities of condo ownership. The Condo Game looks at Canada’s urban experiment and shakes the foundations to see if they are cracked or sound. Directed by Lionel Goddard and Helen Slinger, The Condo Game aired Thurs. Nov 21, 2013 on CBC Television’s Doc Zone.
Written and directed by Helen Slinger. Aired March 21, 2013 on CBC Television’s Doc Zone
During the past decade in Canada, as human births decline, dog ownership has doubled. As our lives accelerate and urbanize we apparently need our canine friends more than ever. But how do we integrate these descendants of wolves into our citified lifestyle without driving them – and our own species – barking mad?
Dog Dazed takes viewers on an irreverent cross-continent tour of communities where the dog population is exploding.
From divorced couples with shared custody of their dog to folks who regularly check in on their precious pup at doggy day care via webcam, dog owners go to extremes – treating their dogs like children, insisting on their dog’s right to, well, have rights.
Non-dog owners incensed by dogs and their indulgent humans are fighting back. And ground zero in this battle is often poop. You might say it’s the fertile ground in which much canine conflict takes root. Canadian dogs deposit some 797 tons of waste daily in our parks and on our sidewalks. Steaming messes leave non-dog owners steaming mad. So much so they’ll pick up poop and deposit it on the steps of city hall, or create the doggy-do wall of shame, where photos of owners who don’t pick up are displayed for all to see.
The dog people aren’t taking it lying down. Rather, they’re rising up to fight for off leash rights. Dogs may not be able to vote but they certainly have created their own powerful political lobby.
None of this is actually the dog’s fault, according to Alexandra Horowitz, whose nuanced interpretation of dog behaviour resulted in the New York Times bestseller, Inside of a Dog. Horowitz and Broadway show dog trainer Bill Berloni believe so much conflict over dogs would be resolved if owners took time to understand their dog’s wiring and to pick the right pooch for their lifestyle. Both reveal their common-sense solutions in Dog Dazed, gently reminding us that perhaps it’s time humans learned to adapt too.
To underscore just how inane humans can be, cartoonist Cordell Barker unleashes his inspired comedic genius, capturing the conflict as only he can do. This is a return engagement for the Oscar-nominated cartoonist. (The Cat Came Back, Strange Invaders) whose work in our previous Doc Zone, Cat Crazed offered a hilarious take on humans’ feline obsession.
Written and Directed By Helen Slinger for David Brady Productions and CBC Television, Doc Zone
The Gangster Next Door tells the story behind the headlines of Vancouver’s bloodiest gang war. Considered one of the most desirable places on earth to live, Vancouver has a dark shadow. The city is perfectly positioned as headquarters for the illegal drug industry, and where there are drugs, there are gangs. Shockingly, today’s gangsters are quite likely to be middle-class – young men with a world of options open to them who are still somehow drawn to the dark side. The gangsters are not easy to categorize, nor are their victims. This is now everybody’s gang war. And the new generation of gangster could be anybody’s next-door neighbour.
Written and directed by Maureen Palmer, for CBC Television, Doc Zone
Cat Crazed is a fun and irreverent take on an important environmental story: the world’s unprecedented cat overpopulation crisis. The cat is the world’s most popular pet – and the most disposable. Some 100 million cats, domestic and wild, roam the North American landscape, wreaking havoc on native flora and fauna – and forcing well-meaning humans to take sides in a cat-bird war. It’s become clear that we don’t have a cat problem; we have a human problem. The species at the top of the food chain needs to get a grip on practical humane solutions that can save the lives of cats and birds.
Cat Crazed celebrates our love affair with felines and encourages a new relationship where all cats are loved and none are abandoned. A series of animations by Cordell Barker is interwoven into the film. In Cat Crazed, the Oscar-nominated Barker channels the mythic cat personality captured in his classic 1987 film The Cat Came Back.
Written and directed by Helen Slinger for CBC Television, Passionate Eye
“For years, my alters went to therapy and I wasn’t there for more than five minutes.” – Hilary Stanton
Until her mid-40s, Hilary Stanton lived with big gaps in her memory that she thought were normal. Then Hilary had a breakdown, started therapy, and gradually discovered that – during those gaps in memory that she thought were so normal – other personalities (“alters”) were taking over from her.
She was host to a phalanx of inner children who fought to protect Hilary’s core self from memories of horrific childhood abuse. It would be the job of therapist Cheryl Malmo to convince each of these alters that the abuse is in the past: it is safe to give up their memories to Hilary and, finally, to merge their personality with hers. Many of the therapy sessions were videotaped to train therapists in the treatment of Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder). Remarkably, Hilary gave Bountiful Films permission to use these videotaped therapy sessions to create When the Devil Knocks.
A month after a truly triumphant appearance at the Vancouver International Film Festival in October 2010, Hilary died in a car accident in Mexico. Director Helen Slinger, and the crew of Bountiful Films, came to care deeply for Hilary during the production of When the Devil Knocks. We are honoured to have known her and feel privileged to have been entrusted with the telling of her remarkable story.
Written and directed by Helen Slinger for CBC Television, Doc Zone
Mounties Under Fire is a gripping journey into the heart of the RCMP during a period of profound crisis. Notorious for closing ranks, the Mounties open up to documentary cameras, revealing a painfully flawed organization fighting for its life.
Woven into the big picture – and sometimes colliding with it – are the very human stories of young recruits still willing to step into a force under heavy fire. During some of the RCMP’s darkest days, documentary filmmaker Helen Slinger and Bountiful Films were granted unprecedented access to Depot, the fabled RCMP training academy in Regina. There, Slinger followed a troop of idealistic new recruits during their six months of basic training. The camera’s remarkable access doesn’t end at Depot. From top brass to beat cop, Bountiful Films captures a force in the throes of painful self-examination, struggling to get back to its core values.
Written and directed by Maureen Palmer for CBC Television, Doc Zone
Grassroots Canadians are at the heart of a quiet revolution – couples working on “good” divorces, which acknowledge that the end of a marriage isn’t necessarily the end of a family. How to Divorce & Not Wreck the Kids takes viewers directly into the heart of one of life’s most emotionally devastating transitions.
Three courageous Canadian couples end their marriages on camera using three different low-conflict methods. Carolyn and Roland take the “do it yourself divorce” approach, Lionel and Sally choose a collaborative divorce and Mike and Melissa engage in mediation. All struggle to keep the needs of their children front and centre.
Written and Directed By Helen Slinger for Dreamfilm Productions and CBC Television, Doc Zone
It’s the oddest thing, watching them talking and laughing together, if you know that Katy Hutchison was widowed eight years ago, and Ryan Aldridge is the man who killed her husband. Embracing Bob’s Killer is an intimate documentary exploration of the relationship between a beautiful and vivacious widow and the young man who killed her beloved husband Bob. It’s also a hard look at the nature of forgiveness, and at our human need to judge even this most “divine” of acts. If someone killed your husband, the father of your children – would you forgive? What could possibly compel a widow to embrace her husband’s killer?
Written and directed by Maureen Palmer for Global Television, Global Currents
Polygamy’s Lost Boys follows three young men as they struggle to survive in a world they were raised to believe is wicked. The boys are members of the Fundamentalist Mormon Church, which holds as its core belief: the more wives a man has on earth, the higher the celestial ladder he climbs in heaven.
Most often the young, often teenage, girls are assigned in marriage to church leaders. So do the math: if one man has 8 wives, stands to reason many young men have none. They are effectively cast out of the only world they’ve ever known, like Peter Pan’s lost boys. They’re marooned without family, with few social skills, little education and no role models. Polygamy’s Lost Boys captures the boys’ struggles to find their way in a modern world and to re-align their hearts and minds to another belief system. “We aren’t really going to hell, are we?”
Written and directed by Helen Slinger for Global Television, Global Currents
When we first produced this film back in 2004, Alexandra Morton was a lone voice in the spectacular BC wilderness, warning of the dangers associated with farmed salmon. Discounted at the time by industry and government, and even vilified, Morton is now celebrated for her commitment to save wild salmon.
Alexandra’s Echo followed Morton through a desperate season of gathering evidence to prove that industrial aquaculture harms wild salmon. A decade later, her evidence survived scientific scrutiny and Morton became a key witness at the Cohen Commission, http://www.cohencommission.ca/en/ the federal panel studying the collapse of the Fraser River sockeye. Indefatigable, Morton believes we can bring the wild salmon back, “we just have to get out of the way.” http://alexandramorton.typepad.com/alexandra_morton/
Written and directed by Helen Slinger Global Television, Feature Docs
It’s been an eventful decade since our first foray into Bountiful, home to the fundamentalist polygamous Mormon church in British Columbia. It’s a decade that saw the rise and fall of Warren Jeffs, the church’s all-powerful North American leader; a decade that saw BC church leader Winston Blackmore face polygamy charges. Our film was a catalyst for change, enabling authorities to see inside a closed society.
Leaving Bountiful is the story of systemic sexual abuse tolerated in the name of religious freedom. It is the story of a woman, raised from a tiny child inside this perverted value system, who still somehow finds the courage – and the clarity – to break free. Leaving Bountiful follows Debbie Palmer’s life growing up in Bountiful, British Columbia, her growing disenchantment with a life of blind obedience and endless breeding, climaxing in a final act of desperation. Debbie sets her house on fire and flees with her seven children in tow. From the ashes, she must build a whole new world.
Written and directed by Helen Slinger for Global Television, Global Currents
Many of us fantasize about returning to junior high to confront the kids who made life a living hell, but Erin Thomson actually did it. Her quest to discover why she was the target of bullies is captured in this unsettling one-hour documentary.
The Bully’s Mark promises a disturbing look at a problem that all the anti-bullying programs on the planet have been unable to solve. Why are some kids bullies? Why are some kids targets? And why are so many of us silent bystanders? Erin’s journey also captures the dawn of cyber-bullying and its devastating consequences. If you’re in junior high today or if you escaped 20 years ago, you’ll want to watch…as the bully’s mark – all grown up – goes back home to ask every target’s question – why me?
Written and directed by Helen Slinger for CBC Television, Life and Times
Even his friends described him as cold, calculating, Machiavellian, unremorseful, unremitting…and absolutely charismatic. David McTaggart, the founder of Greenpeace International, was behind some of the greatest environmental victories of our time – including the banning of atmospheric nuclear testing, and the moratorium on commercial whaling.
Among his friends, several powerful politicians, a couple of multi-billionaires and at least one rock star – yet you very likely don’t know his face. McTaggart preferred to work from the shadows, manipulating people and events without having to step out into the light. Made possible by his friendship with director Helen Slinger, Shadow Warrior is an intimate biography of this powerful and elusive environmental champion.