Experiencing Emerging Media

By Abby Scott (MRKT ’20)

One of the trends I’ve noticed while being in Montreal is that teachers will go out of their way to bring the class into the community of Montreal. All of my classes have had outings into the city to museums, cinemas, walking tours, and more. As someone who finds it really hard for concentrate on one thing for a really long time these types of classes really help me stay
focused and understand the content we are given to learn.

One class that has had a lot of these outings has been CCM 301: Emerging Media and Innovation. Earlier in the semester the class went to the PHI Center for an exhibition with a variety of virtual reality art pieces. Manic, one of the more popular VR pieces, is actually based on a documentary movie of the same title. It was filmed and directed by Kalina Bertin, a Montreal artist who later in the semester was kind enough to come talk to us at the academic
center after a screening of the documentary.

For the VR experience, the viewer goes through a variety of stages of mania and coming back down. The recordings of voice mails the artist’s siblings had left for her are the background noise throughout the piece. The various scenes go through different themes that may occur during a manic episode such as believing you are invincible. With this in mind, I went into the movie screening thinking that it would be very similar. Very quickly I realized the documentary would be very different from the VR piece. Instead, I sat in the back of the classroom and was instantly wrapped up in Ms. Bertin’s storytelling.

Bertin’s documentary does focus on the mental health of her family, but is more so about the history of it and looking for answers in her family roots. Quickly, the documentary dives into the story of Bertin’s father, George Patrick Dubie. Bertin grew up on the Caribbean Island of Montserrat, when her father was still in her life. However, it was only once her father was murdered in Thailand that Bertin began to unravel the story of her father. Dubie was a man of many identities, one of which was the reincarnation of Christ within his Hawaiian doomsday cult. This was the first connection Bertin drew between her father and siblings. During manic
episodes, Bertin’s sibling would often think they are invincible and on a mission from god. At one point, her sister thought she was Joan of Arc.

During the documentary, I was instantly enthralled with the family. Not only because of the fantastic nature of the story of Bertin’s father, but because of the everyday clips of Bertin’s siblings. While there was a focus on their mental health, there was overall themes of love and optimism. One clip during Bertin’s sister, Felicia’s, manic phase showed Bertin’s niece interacting with her mom and Bertin. This clip stuck out for me because of how real it was and how you could see the love from the niece and Bertin to Felicia. In the past when I have
watched documentaries on mental health I have felt that it focuses too much on mental health’s negative symptoms rather than how those with mental health issues live and cope with them.

Bertin’s documentary shows the everyday life of a family affected by mental health which I feel is the type of documentary we need to help stop the stigmatization of mental health disorders. It was surreal to have Bertin walk into the classroom after the screening of the documentary. I had just watched a documentary about a large portion of her life and then there she was standing right in front of me. Sometimes it is hard to humanize someone who appears on screen but when they are tangible and in front of you it brings up a lot of questions. How could she emotionally handle interviewing the woman who had killed her father (in 2006, Dubie
was murdered in Thailand by his girlfriend)? When she found out her father had been a cult leader how did she avoid questioning herself as a legacy of his cult? How could she handle finding out she had half siblings she did not know about? Was she not afraid to show the world the dark side of her family? Bertin took a few questions from the class that were mostly focused on what inspired her to make the documentary, how the family has been affected by the documentary, and the music used.

Being able to talk to Bertin about her work and really get to know the artist behind the documentary was a unique experience that I would have never had if it wasn’t for CCM 301. The class has allowed me to experience many of the creative aspects of the Montreal tech community, and in a short time it has been easy to recognize the creative hub that Montreal is and get to know just a few of the artists that call Montreal home.