You are now in the main content area

The River: Showcasing the Creativity and Challenges of Peterborough’s Low Income Population

By: Ana Leal Cornejo
September 14, 2020
Still from the documentary The River.

Still from The River, a documentary by Benjamin Hargreaves (RSJ '20).

As his hometown faced a housing and opioid crisis, Benjamin Hargreaves (RSJ ‘20) was compelled to create  a documentary inspired by The River magazine which features art and stories of those living in poverty in Peterborough, Ont.

“I lived at home in Peterborough last summer and I wanted something to work on outside of my regular work hours.I came across a magazine in Peterborough which showcased low income artists so I tracked down the founder of the magazine and pitched the idea of a documentary. I still didn't know what story was going to be but I wanted to meet the people so I spent every day after work running off to shoot somewhere,” said Hargreaves.

According to Hargreaves, the growing housing and opioid crisis were becoming more evident on the streets of his city and he wanted to show a different side of a mostly-forgotten sector of society.

“There was this big thing happening in our city with tent cities because there weren’t enough beds in shelters. As a form of protest and necessity people began to camp outside of the courthouse and  it was an overwhelming number of people. The crisis was out in the open, before it had been in alleyways in the dark. I wanted to capture the essence of what it meant to be on the side of these people and I wanted to be careful not to make it negative,” he said.

Hargreaves worked all summer of 2019 to collect footage for his documentary and pieced it together during the school year to satisfy the requirements of his capstone project.

Aside from being able to practice technical skills and learning the importance of storyboards and scripting, Hargreaves says he learned how much potential rests with the people who are often overlooked in society.

“The part of society that people deem not worthy, these people contribute to society better than people working a 40 hour week. I hope that people take away that there is more to the people that you pass on the street- or cross the street instead of walking past. One of the things I learned is that these people who are low income have so much to offer but aren’t given the  same opportunities. What if they had the support and resources we all had?” Hargreaves said.

The River is set to screen at New West Film Festival in New Westminster in B.C, Canada’s Let's Make a Movie Film Festival in Montreal and will have its world premiere in the Durham National Film Festival where it is nominated for Best Student Film.

Head shot of Benjamin Hargreaves (RSJ '20)

RSJ alum Benjamin Hargreaves.