Documentary screening: Life off-grid, by Phillip Vannini and Jonathan Taggart

11:15AM to 1:15PM December 1, 2014
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Castle Drawing Room

Join School of Communication and Culture Prof. Phillip Vannini and photojournalist Jonathan Taggart for a screening of their film, Life off-grid.

From 2011to 2013, Vannini and Taggart travelled across Canada to find off-gridders and visit them in their homes. Following the ethnographic tradition, sometimes they lived with them for a short period of time. Sometimes they followed them around as they hunted, fished, harvested, collected wood, and built their homes. And at times they too practised living in off-grid homes and cabins. Over two years, they visited about 100 homes and interviewed about 200 off-grid Canadians, as well as many American and British expats living in Canada. They met off-gridders in every single province and territory and through their film they narrate their travels and chronicle in depth the experiences, challenges, inventions, aspirations, and ways of life of some of them.

To make their travels and encounters with off-gridders possible, Vannini and Taggart had to fly on dozens of planes, ride snowmobiles, paddle kayaks and canoes, don show-shoes, ride ATVs, sail ferries and small boats, drive on ice roads and city streets, and bike and trek across many regions of our country. Life off-grid renders the intensity of that experience through the style of a travelogue.

“But our film isn’t just a road story,” says Vannini, Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Public Ethnography. “Our encounters with off-gridders young and old, far and near, and rich and poor, have inspired us to reflect not only about off-grid life in itself, but also to question our collective, modern, on-grid way of life. This is a film on disconnection as much as it is on everything we all take for granted about the modern condition and its comforts, conveniences, and connectivity.”

“Off-gridders are often the subject of stereotypes,” says Taggart, an alumnus of the MA in Intercultural and International Communication. “Hippies, hermits, outlaws, rebels, misfits – these are just some of the labels applied to them. But our filmic portraits reveal a different picture, one that is less sensational, less radical, and more nuanced and subtle. Our intimate encounters show off-gridders to be individuals who care about their family and their environment, about their homes, communities, and their place in the world.”

Through the experiences of off-gridders, the film shows us what it means to question how we all procure and consume energy, food, and water, and more broadly what we can all do to rely more on renewable resources and technologies. Without romanticizing their struggles or glossing over their troubles, Life off-grid shows in detail both why and how people live off the grid, revealing whether this might even be the future way of life for all of us. 

The screening is free and open to the public.