HotDocs ’23: I’m Just Here for the Riot [Capsule]

This is how Game 7 can change lives.

From the director of The Grizzlie Truth, I’m Just Here for the Riot shows the buildup, aftermath and raging chaos that reigned over the streets of Vancouver following their beloved Canucks losing the NHL Stanley Cup Finals in 2011. The first thirty minutes of the film are effective in luring you into this insane event as it takes its opening moments to set the stage of the sporting stakes of this Game 7 matchup between the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins. You can sense the hope in the air but it was all for not. The Canucks were crushed. Then, as the need to let loose took hold, a group of people pressured a man to push over a car that was parked on the street and the ensuing hours cost 4-5 million dollars of damage.

Once you’ve been swept away in the footage and details of this insane event, the film turns to the empathetic and personal side of the story: the aftermath for the rioters and those who were affected by the riot. Many of them were young people, some of them were quite drunk, they were looking for a good time and all of it was captured on the modern miracle of digital cameras. Millions of pictures and thousands of hours of video were taken, many rioters were posing in front of the burning cars, broken storefronts and many looked like they were thriving in the anarchic chaos. All of them were punished through both the unprecedented investigation into all the digital photographic evidence of the crimes that occurred and the online mob that aimed to try and achieve vigilante justice through the internet.

What became more terrifying than the potential legal ramifications of their documented riotous actions was the online backlash. The threats, name-calling and intimidation became the most serious concern for a lot of these rioters as they struggled to move on with their lives. Many of them were young people who made huge mistakes but have been simply looking for a way to move on. They detail how much pain they went through in the aftermath of their legal mistakes and it shows the damage that mob mentality can create, both in the real world and online. Despite one mob seeming to have a good reason to band together, the alienation and isolation that they created for these people seemed clearly over-the-top. This online mob–a virtual riot, if you will–lacked nuance and understanding, achieved through online discourse. This is something that we see constantly today in the discussion of the most important humanistic political issues.

The film is really about forgiveness, moving on and online rage. They allow the film to go beyond simple-minded coverage of spectacular, human-perpetuated disaster and into the empathetic stories that surround this outrageous event. It’s sternly objective approach and lack of interference finds insight on all of these personal perspectives allowing the audience to dissect their flaws and view them as human beings. It’s a reflection and visual experience that is rarely brought into an online issue. The film is able to use precise editing, immersive sound and music to weave an effective tale of humanity and what happens when emotions run high and people do things that are pretty stupid.

We’re Just Here for the Riot is now playing at Hot Docs ’23. For more information, click here.

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