Incorrigible – A Film about Velma Demerson
Catalogue Number: BMFI00
Producer: Blue Moon Films Inc.
Producers: Lee, Karin; Kwan, Chuck
Directors: Lee, Karin
Producing Agencies: Top Dollar Sisters Productions Inc. and Tissa Films
Subject: Canadian History, Canadian Social Issues, Criminal Justice & Law, Diversity, Documentary, Guidance, History, Politics, Psychology, Social Issues, Social Sciences, Women's Studies
Grade Level: 9 - 12, Post Secondary, Adult
Country Of Origin: Canada
Copyright Year: 2022
Running Time: 45:45
Gemini award winning filmmaker Karin Lee tells the heartbreaking and poignant story of Velma Demerson who was arrested under the Ontario Female Refuges Act (1897-1964) and incarcerated for falling in love with a Chinese man in 1938 at the age of 18 in Toronto, Canada.
Pregnant and without legal counsel, Velma was sentenced to one year in prison where she was tortured by the prison's eugenicist doctor who attempted to abort her child. 60 years later Velma attempted to sue the Ontario provincial government for wrongful incarceration. She and paralegal activist Harry Kopyto worked to solve the puzzle of how to sue the government for a case which was past the limitation period. Velma was finally vindicated and won her case in 2003 at the age of 83.
This is the story of an ordinary young woman who did nothing wrong, except to fall in love with a man of a different race. It is a story of how institutional racism ruined the lives of two young people in love and destroyed the possibility of their having a happy and healthy family. Most important, it is the inspirational story of a woman who fought back for decades to get justice and won.
Velma never stopped trying to get justice for all the women arrested under the Female Refuges Act, and actively lobbied the government, until her death in 2019, to apologize to all women who were wrongly incarcerated. The message in this film to these women and their families is that "they did nothing wrong and it's not their fault”. Velma’s memoir ‘Incorrigible’ was published in 2004.
About the producer:
Karin Lee is a Canadian media artist and filmmaker. Born and raised in Vancouver, B.C, Karin’s films are influenced by her upbringing: both her parents were activists who worked in the downtown Eastside, with her father running a Chinese communist bookstore at 33 East Hastings from the mid-1960s to '80s. Her interest in Chinese Canadian identity, feminism and social justice activism informs her narrative films, experimental video, documentaries and original web series she has written, directed and produced since 1991.
BEST BIOGRAPHICAL FILM - Toronto International Women Film Festival
Official Selection – Worldwide Women’s Film Festival, 2023
Best Canadian Documentary, Best Director, Best Editing – Hollywood North Film Awards, 2022
Golden Sheaf Award
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