East Side showdown

GLOBE AND MAIL: John Doyle weeks picks
East Side Showdown (Sunday, 8 January 2012 Documentary Channel, 8 p.m.)

A different way to start the New Year is a contemplation of this, a remarkable 1998 doc (made by Robin Benger) about an area of Toronto, and the awful ironies of urban existence. When Nicholas Campbell’s voice first arrives, as narrator, talking about “a dingy neighbourhood at war” you wonder if it’s hyperbole. But then the story of the battle for control of the Sherbourne and Dundas area of Toronto unfolds and we really see a war. The local residents’ association, mostly people who have recently bought homes there, is asking for the hookers, the drug peddlers and the homeless to move on. The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty is fighting hard to protect the homeless and their local shelters and rooming houses. The church is siding with the poor and downtrodden. We watch as a furious, tense, back-and-forth battle goes on. Someone calls the hookers and drug addicts “scum of the earth” and a church worker asks, “Who are we to judge?” This is formidable, provocative television.

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