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I was interviewed by the Globe and Mail after I watched a piece on the Downtown Eastside by the reality-based television show, 4Real, and posted my thoughts in a blog entry. I'm sick and tired of those who are exploiting people in my neighborhood and then self-righteously claim to be drawing attention to the troubles of the DTES. The people of my Oldtown area are the most marginalized, studied and researched people around and nothing much changes down here for them. Enough is enough. I am shocked that the Portland Hotel Society which I support are willingly going to take 50% of the show's profits. Shame on the Portland if this is the case--JLH
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Show's Eastside visit angers activist
March 14, 2008
VANCOUVER -- An activist in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside is decrying the reality TV show 4Real for what she calls "poverty porn."
Jamie Lee Hamilton is referring to an episode that aired on CTV Wednesday night, which focused on the troubled Vancouver neighbourhood.
"I feel it was terribly, terribly voyeuristic," Hamilton said yesterday.
"It just really, really shocked me that I think people in the lowest time in their lives [can] be filmed ... for a program that's about making money. I think it is really exploitive and I don't think it furthers humanity."
The show, co-hosted by creator (and Vancouver resident) Sol Guy and a celebrity (in this case Eva Mendes) travels to trouble spots around the world (the show has travelled to Kenya, Haiti and Liberia this season), looking at their problems and profiling people who are trying to effect change.
The Vancouver episode focuses on Liz Evans, a widely admired advocate who has worked in the Downtown Eastside for 17 years.
The Globe and Mail was unable to contact Evans yesterday.
The show also features close-up footage of obviously troubled area residents, although sometimes their faces are obscured. Hamilton, though, says they're still recognizable.
"They're so out of it. They have no idea that there's a camera turned on them with film rolling."
Hamilton is planning to send a letter of complaint to broadcaster CTV and its advertisers.
"We're really proud of this series and this episode," said David Kines, senior vice-president at MTV, which is planning to air the 4Real series in its entirety this spring. "It was tough to watch, but that's reality. I don't think it's at all exploitive."
(CTV, MTV and The Globe and Mail are all owned by CTV globemedia.) Guy says the whole point of the show is to highlight issues and bring about change. "That scene down there is a refugee camp in our beautiful city of Vancouver and we want to bring attention to it."
Guy points out that 50 per cent of the profits will go to Evans's organization, the Portland Hotel Society, which offers housing and other support programs for Downtown Eastside residents.
The 4Real website was filled with praise yesterday from people who had seen the show and were moved by it.
The 4Real episode is the latest high-profile TV venture to address the Downtown Eastside in recent weeks. Devil Plays Hardball, which aired on CBC Newsworld's The Passionate Eye, sent four Vancouverites into the neighbourhood to mentor people for 10 months. And U.S. journalist Dan Rather recently aired a piece about the Downtown Eastside on Dan Rather Reports on HDNet.