Divisive documentary stirs protests

pg07-a-redpillBandana-clad protestors assembled at Ottawa City Hall to protest screenings of the controversial film The Red Pill earlier this month. Jamie Pashagumskum, Centretown NewsA group of protesters wearing bandanas over their faces protested a film screening at City Hall in early December because they said it is anti-feminist and misogynistic. The masks, they said, were for their protection.

As families skated on the Rink of Dreams nearby, the masked protesters handed out brochures. They stood at the entrance off Laurier Avenue with large red flags that said, “Long live Proletarian Feminism,” and “Revolutionary Student Movement.” 

The movie is The Red Pill by the controversial U.S. documentary filmmaker Cassie Jaye. 

The title of her latest film is a reference to the movie The Matrix and, according to the filmmaker’s Twitter page, refers to “seeing the painful truth of reality.”

The documentary portrays Jaye, a self-proclaimed feminist, who begins the film seeking out men’s rights activists to understand more about their growing movement, part of a perceived backlash against feminism. Along the way she has a change of heart and discovers that men and women suffer from similar issues.

In the extended trailer for the movie on YouTube, Jaye is interviewing men’s right’s leader Paul Elam — who has just made a convincing argument about the men’s movement — and Jaye says: “I think I agree with everything you said, but there’s still some kind of unsettling doubt.”

The screening was organized by the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) as a fundraiser for their plans to open a men’s shelter in Ottawa similar to The Canadian Centre for Men and Families in Toronto.

Meanwhile, outside City Hall, the protesters were angry. One of the brochures they were handing out said: “City of Ottawa Gives Public Space to Misogynist Organizations!” The organization they referred to is CAFE.

A man with his face covered who would not give his name said that The Red Pill was supposed to be a voice for men, and added: “But that’s not my voice.”

The lone unmasked protestor, Danik Norman, a first-year education student at the University of Ottawa, said they wore masks because they were afraid of a backlash from CAFE and that their protest might be filmed.

The next day a video was, in fact, posted on YouTube named Protest of The Red Pill Movie at Ottawa City Hall. The video showed a camera crew filming The Revolutionary Student Movement in what turned into a confrontational exchange of heated words and accusations.

Norman said The Red Pill was originally scheduled to be shown at the Mayfair Theatre in Old Ottawa South, but that showing was cancelled because of complaints from the community.

He said to try to stop the showing at City Hall, he and fellow protesters emailed Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and used social media. 

“This really isn’t the sort of thing the City of Ottawa should be supporting and endorsing,” Norman argued.

At the screening inside City Hall, CAFE CEO Justin Trottier said he was thrilled as they sold out two shows at a capacity of close to 100 people. “We feel (The Red Pill) is a great vehicle to try to bring people together and engage in dialogue,” Trottier said. 

A third screening of The Red Pill is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Dec. 18 at the Main branch of the Ottawa Public Library on Metcalfe Street.