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Upcoming documentary examines the culture of the Calgary Police Service

Filmmaker Marc Serpa Francoeur said he was motivated by the lack of accountability within several institutions.

Both he and co-director, Robinder Uppal, who co-founded Lost Time Media, were disturbed and angered with what they’d been seeing for a number of years.

Systemic failings, both within the Calgary Police Service and the Crown prosecutor’s office, led the Calgary-born documentarians to create No Visible Trauma.

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It’s a feature-length documentary that examined the culture of the CPS and reveals the consequences of unchecked police assaults.

“These are problems that have lots of people involved,” said Francoeur.

Five years in the making, the idea first surfaced when Francoeur was introduced to Godfred Addai-Nyamekye’s case of police brutality.

There’s exclusive new footage in the documentary, involving other Calgary cases.

Calgary focus for the film

There are several statistics and videos highlighted that make the conversation about police brutality relatable to a local audience.

“It’s portraying a very serious issue,” said Brennan Tilley, a lead programmer at the Calgary Underground Film Festival (CUFF.docs), where the documentary will make its Calgary premiere.

“What is looked at, in particular, are three cases of extreme violence at the hand of Calgary Police Service, which are probably on their own pretty hard to defend.”

“It’s obviously critical to us in Calgary.”

Francoeur said many Canadians think this is a problem south of the border, but not here.

“We have a problem in Canada, where we think, ‘Oh, these are American problems,’” said Francoeur.

“People don’t realize we actually have really unacceptable levels of malfeasance here.”

Adam Massiah, CEO of the activist group The UBPA holding a sign that says ‘Canada is no better’ outside of the Calgary Courts Centre (OMAR SHERIF / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY)

Tilley described himself as an idealist but maintained that he thinks this will spark more positive action than division.

“This isn’t saying, the police force is terrible, and we should shut them down,” he said. “But I think the issues that are raised here need to be addressed.”

He added that if this was an attack on the Calgary Police, CUFF.Docs would not have screened the film.

A timely coincidence

Francoeur said the importance and attention that the film is now getting was not something they could have predicted.

“We obviously had no idea five years ago, let alone five months ago, how much the discussion around policing, reform and abolishment of defunding and all these reallocations of resources, like this whole thing that’s exploded,” he said.

“We were seeing these problems and identified them and knew that they needed to be addressed.”

Both he and Tilley are optimistic that the documentary will be part of a broader conversation. They want to see positive change on these issues.

“I think there should be pretty widespread agreement that these things shouldn’t happen,” said Tilley.

“And that we’re all on the same team to make sure that these things don’t continue to happen in our city.”

No Visible Trauma will be played at the Globe Theatre as part of the CUFF.Docs film festival on Nov. 29 and will be available for streaming between Nov. 25 and Dec. 1.