When they arrived at McMaster more than a year ago, Layla Mashkoor and Nicole Rallis didn’t know much about Hamilton. Since then, they’ve found their place in the city and have documented its shifting urban identity in a film called This is Hamilton…After the Steel Rush.
On Saturday, Nov. 24, a mix of community members and students poured into Homegrown Hamilton on King William Street to attend the premiere of the film. The large crowd filled the room to the brim to watch the 45-minute documentary.
Mashkoor and Rallis launched the initiative as part of their major research project for the Masters Program in Globalization.
Along with Mark Hoyne, who filmed the project, they have been consumed with the documentary process over the past year and say they are thrilled with its reception.
‘This is Hamilton’ centres on political and cultural changes in the community after the shutdown of Stelco plants that had propelled Hamilton’s reputation as the ‘Steel City.’
The film tackles issues of poverty, income inequality, local governance, attitudes toward downtown, and the emergence of a booming arts scene.
“We were learning about issues across the globe, and then we’d take a walk through the city and see the same things happening in our own backyard,” said Mashkoor. “Ironically, studying globalization made us really understand the importance of the local.”
The film features perspectives from several community members. Each interviewee was asked to describe Hamilton in one word at some point in their discussion.
President Patrick Deane, political science professor Peter Graefe, and alumna Jeanette Eby are among those from McMaster who make an appearance in the film.
Rallis and Mashkoor didn’t immediately get involved in the community, as is often the case for students who come to Hamilton to study at Mac. An MSU poll last year found that only 36 per cent of students ventured ‘outside the bubble’ once or twice a week.
“It was the people [in the community] who got us engaged and thinking about this project,” Mashkoor said.
“A large part of our time was spent doing our coursework. I think that’s a big challenge to getting students engaged with the city – they’re so busy that it’s hard to get them to into the downtown core,” she said.
“McMaster has a responsibility to the citizens of Hamilton, and the citizens also need to reach out to undergrads,” said Rallis. “This year, Mac has launched some initiatives to get undergrads into the city, which I think is a positive step to getting students to look past Westdale.”
The grads are now looking to distribute the film more widely, hoping to increase its reach through CHCH, the University’s website, and a few more screenings in the near future. The next screening is set to take place at the Casbah on Dec. 15 at 5 pm.
“We’re just three people making a movie. We’re taking it one step at a time,” they said.