Vancouver resident Conrad Schmidt describes his scathing anti–2010 Olympics documentary, Five Ring Circus, as a “going-away present”.
For three years, the Work Less Party founder and South African immigrant has preached (and lived) a message of “work less, consume less, and live more” and support for the local arts community in an effort to maintain a just and equal society. He gave up his car and a well-paying job in the high-tech industry in 2004 and sold his apartment a year later.
Schmidt’s 87-minute documentary claims that 2010 brings a new threat to equality and justice in the form of increased poverty, curtailed civil liberties, and higher taxes as 2010 costs soar. Mayor Sam Sullivan asks: “When the world arrives in Vancouver in 2010, what kind of city will they find?”
Now a renter, Schmidt claims he already knows the answer.
“If you don’t already own property in Vancouver and you aren’t making serious dough, you are out of here,” Schmidt told the Straight in an interview. “Otherwise you’re on the street.”
It is his relentless pursuit of social justice that led Schmidt to University of Toronto sociologist Helen Jefferson Lenskyj, who is working on her third book on the effects of the Olympic Games on their host cities. Lenskyj appears throughout Five Ring Circus, dismissing claims there will be a net benefit to average British Columbians from hosting the 2010 Games.
“I planned this years and years in advance,” Schmidt said. “I thought, ”˜Okay, by 2010 you either get a well-paying job or move somewhere else.’”
Schmidt sold an East Side apartment to continue following his passions, which he said involves the Work Less Party, the filming of countless protests and direct actions, and not working at a job he doesn’t like so he can produce “stuff that just winds up in landfills”.
“One of the reasons why I sold my place and own absolutely nothing is that I don’t ever want to be sued for anything,” he said. “If I don’t own anything, nobody—including the IOC—can sue me.”
Despite the “mirth”, Five Ring Circus (www.thefiveringcircus.com/) promises to tell the “untold story of the Vancouver 2010 Games”. It will run at the Rio Theatre from March 2 to 8. (Schmidt is adding Indecent Exposure to Cars: The Story of the World Naked Bike Ride as a double-bill levity item.)
Schmidt and his girlfriend, Chantal Morin, filmed and edited 150 hours of footage for Five Ring Circus. Everything from former mayor Larry Campbell’s 2003 promise of a “sustainable Olympics” to Anti-Poverty Committee demonstrations is contrasted with police presence at “illegal” downtown squats to protest evictions leading up to 2010.
Deciding he had to “go after the local mayors”, Schmidt cornered Derek Corrigan (Burnaby), Pamela Goldsmith-Jones (West Vancouver), and Richard Walton (District of North Vancouver) for their less-than-flattering on-the-record views on the games coming to town.
Sullivan also features in the movie, dismissing Anti-Poverty Committee protests as an “illegal act” at a City Hall news conference on social housing that coincided with the APC squat at a now demolished city-owned apartment building on West 10th Avenue.
Five Ring Circus takes all levels of government to task. And if what Schmidt’s movie portrays is accurate, any perceived or real benefit of the Games will be lost.
Advance tickets for the March 2 premiere can be purchased from Pivot Legal Society (678 East Hastings), Veggie Resource Centre (2250 Commercial Drive), or Our Community Bikes (3283 Main Street).