The Rankin File: Legacy of a Radical
Catalogue Number: HRFS00
Producer: The Harry Rankin Film Society
Subject: Canadian History, Canadian Politics, Canadian Social Studies, Criminal Justice & Law, Documentary, History, Politics, Social Studies
Grade Level: 9 - 12, Post Secondary, Adult
Country Of Origin: Canada
Copyright Year: 2018
Running Time: 89:32
A film that was never finished. A mayor that Vancouver almost had.
Vancouver, 1986. The Expo World’s Fair has just ended and the future of the city is at stake. Harry Rankin – World War II veteran, criminal lawyer, city councillor and outspoken socialist – is running for mayor against a young, right-wing upstart named Gordon Campbell.
Decades later, director Teresa Alfeld unearths reels of 16mm footage of Harry’s campaign, filmed for a documentary by lawyer-turned-filmmaker-turned-lawyer Peter Smilsky. Peter’s documentary was never completed and the abandoned footage sat in Harry’s son’s basement for decades. Teresa decides to pick up where Peter left off and attempts to complete the film about the Vancouver legend.
The Rankin File: Legacy of a Radical chronicles Harry’s nearly fifty-year career beginning with his World War II military service as a soldier, twice wounded in combat. His worldview altered by his wartime experience, Harry sets out to build a working-class political movement in Vancouver that puts power in the hands of the people. Finally elected to city council in 1966 after eleven tries, Harry’s career as both a civic politician and a talented criminal lawyer takes off. Not even years of surveillance by the RCMP for alleged ties to the Communist Party – which he denies – can slow him down.
The past few years have seen the rise of populism on both the hard left and the hard right. As politicians from Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump in the United States, and from Jeremy Corbyn to Nigel Farage in the United Kingdom, attempt to harness the power of both the best and the worst of people looking for real change – and as Justin Trudeau attempts to split the differences here in Canada – what can we learn from the successes – and failures – of Harry Rankin?
“There are many moments during ‘The Rankin File’ where the audience ismade to feel guilty. On the eve of an election many decades in the making, a career-defining moment for Harry Rankin, we, Vancouver, would betray him ... A documentary that scratches at the open wound of Vancouver’s cold, capitalist heart." ~ DISCORDER
“Half Vancouver history, half killer stunt, and – with the upcoming municipal election – all timing … Memorable ... Nuanced ... Full of vivid moments from Vancouver’s past." ~ GEORGIA STRAIGHT
"A timely return to Harry Rankin's story that dispenses with rose-coloured glasses ... Brisk and informative ... Objective enough to let anyone appreciate the film without any prior knowledge of Rankin ... His just causes, passion for underdogs, and social consciousness are universal traits for doc fans to admire in a leader." ~ POV MAGAZINE“
The drama of Teresa Alfeld’s documentary turns on whether Rankin will win the mayoralty, what will happen if he does, and what the city might do if he doesn’t ... It’s a time, and a politician, worth returning to."~ SAD MAG"
A fascinating film ... A full picture of Harry Rankin ... A marvelous chronicle of Vancouver." ~ THE COMMENTARY****
"Brisk and evocative ... If you’ve got any interest at all in Vancouver politics, how it is today and what came before, this is a must-see film."~ VANCOUVER OBSERVER
(1 Of 9 Can't-Miss Films At DOXA) "In 1986, Vancouverites went to the polls to elect a new mayor. That election was, in retrospect, a referendumon development and the future of the city ... It's fascinating to get toknow the brash and outspoken Rankin via Teresa Alfeld’s stirring film, and consider what might have been.” ~ YVR SCREEN SCENE
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