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Civic Impact

Documentary aims to capture Kensington Market's colourful, anarchic history

KM 150 Pix 7

Waves of immigrant—Jewish, Portuguese, Caribbean, Eastern European and Asian—have shaped the six-block district that make up Kensington Market, each making their own contribution to the neighbourhood’s gritty bohemian charm.
But rising real estate prices and changing immigration patterns have resulted in a Kensington that’s become glossier and gentrified. Younger generations may see the market as a funky place to eat and drink without knowing what it’s meant to so many Torontonians.
Enter The Mission Media Company, which is working on a documentary about the first 150 years of the history of Kensington Market. Currently in the midst of crowdfunding, gathering archival film and video footage and recording personal stories about the market, the filmmakers hope to have the documentary ready for release in early 2017.
Director Stuart Clarfield’s Jewish great grandparents immigrated to the market just before the First World War at a time when 85 per cent of the city’s Jewish population lived there. His parents were born there and though Clarfield himself was born in North York, the market has remained a central part of his life.  “I’d hear stories of growing up there and what life was like. When I was in my teens I became enamoured of the vintage and alternative arts community here,” says Clarfield. His 1986 film Welcome to the Parade, about a wealthy drug user tossed out of his family home, has a scene shot in the market.
Documentary maker Stuart Clarfield wants to celebrate and commemorate Kensington Market.
 Clarfield wants to capture the people and the stories of the neighbourhood while he still can. “The market is at a crossroads and this in some ways is the last opportunity to get the stories and see some of the legacy stores that existing in the market,” he says. “The Jewish community experience had ended by the early 1970s, so there’s a generation that’s lived here which is just passing away, and even folks from the Portuguese community, the Hungarian community that came here in the 1950s, they’re in their seventies and eighties. This may be the last opportunity to get their stories firsthand.”
While it’s been a challenge to fundraise for a documentary that’s perhaps too local to interest a national broadcaster, Clarfield expects the visuals to come more easily. “Artistically, you can point the camera in any direction and get somethings that’s interesting,” he says.
On March 26 and on April 3, the team will host a pop-up documentary station where people can share their stories and views of Kensington on camera. Habitués with photos, films and stories can email [email protected]
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Stuart Clarfield
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