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In 2006, artist Pamela Masik began a massive undertaking. She started painting large-scale portraits inspired by a police poster of 69 women—many of them Aboriginal, all of them prostitutes or drug addicts— who went missing from the streets of Vancouver and, as police investigation finally proved, were murdered on Robert Pickton’s farm. Her purpose for deciding to steer away from her more traditional, money-making art pieces and take on a project like this was to shed light on a population of women who were the victims of a systemically racist and sexist society that continues to minimize violence against them. The paintings were startling to look at and occasionally gruesome but Masik insisted that she was only trying to highlight the harsh treatment these women endured during their short lives. While many people applauded her efforts and some of the victims’ family members stod behind her, activist groups became outraged, accusing Masik of exploiting her subjects in order to further her career. A planned exhibit was cancelled and the paintings went into storage. Should the victims be allowed to rest in peace or is this a case of them being silenced yet again?

This is a pretty fascinating documentary if only because of the way it tackles the violence against women issue. The story of Masik and her paintings is shown within the context of the botched Pickton investigation and resulting inquiry which only reinforces her idea that these women were never treated as worthwhile simply because they were East Vancouver residents and known prostitutes and drug addicts (“Imagine if 69 women went missing in West Vancouver?” she wonders at one point). Her intentions, if maybe slightly self-serving, are also clearly pure as she pours her heart and soul into the project, only to have it dismissed by activist groups because she’s ‘an affluent white woman’. The great thing about the film is that it gives you a fair-minded representation of each side of the argument and it will definitely inpsire some great discussion after the credits roll.

Is The Exhibition Essential Hot Docs Viewing?

Definitely. The Pickton case and Masik’s artwork when looked at from a feminist perspective is incredibly intriguing and it will stay with you long after you leave the theatre.

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