________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 9 . . . . January 7, 2000

cover Turning Away.

Kenton Vaughan and Craig Chivers (Directors). Kenton Vaughan, Craig Chivers and Silva Basmajian (Producers).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 1998.
59 min, 50 sec, VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9198 006.

Subject Headings:
Homeless youth-Ontario-Toronto.
Street youth-Ontario-Toronto.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Tom Knutson.

*** /4


"The street can be a refuge for the young, for those seeking adventure or escape. But its charms deceive. Life on the street takes more than it gives. By age 25 there comes a choice: stay, or turn away."
With stark simplicity, Turning Away's narrator quietly entices viewers on a rare and revealing journey into the lives of Darci and Blair, two street youths who have reached this crucial turning point. Theirs is the story of the many young people in Canada for whom quitting the streets means leaving behind not only drugs and prostitution but also a community that ironically has given them a sense of belonging.

The impact of Turning Away comes from its approach of letting the central figures tell their stories in their own words, within the physical context of the street; there is little sense that an interview is taking place. Using a format that alternates between profiles of Darci and Blair gives the viewer an opportunity to identify similar themes such as family conflict, parental expectations, early experiences with drugs, and survival knowledge on the street. Photographs help trace their paths from early childhood to adolescence, and interviews with Darci's and Blair's parents provide both opposing and complementing perspectives. Cover notes provide general background information and statistics on young people at risk, and offer suggestions for additional resources, including websites. The overall mood is appropriately captured by a soundtrack that is distant, bleak and lonely, reflecting the rich visual imagery that casts the city as a cold and unforgiving place of 'haves' and 'have-nots.' The narration, while understated, has a quality of storytelling in its tone and phrasing and leaves the viewer anticipating a positive outcome. Instead, two brief concluding statements show that Turning Away is, in some respects, just a beginning.

With its compelling narrative and "insider" footage, Turning Away will captivate senior students and adults alike and is suggested as a resource for staff in schools and community organizations. For young people who perceive street life as exciting, it is an opportunity to experience that life first-hand through a film that gives both a face and a voice to the street's many nameless inhabitants.

Highly Recommended.

Tom Knutson, a Children's Librarian at Vancouver Public Library, is Vice-chair of the Young Adults and Children's Services Section (YAACS) of the British Columbia Library Association.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364