They Should Be Flowers
They Should Be Flowers is a short film and VR companion experience about a six-year-old Black girl who was handcuffed by police in Ontario.
I’m drawn to VR’s proximity to the future and a new frontier that has yet to be discovered. It allows for a particular experiential confrontation that is an important element when dealing with the history of racism in Canada.
As a storyteller, a large part of my work is centred around who is telling the story and to whom. In its form, this documentary is inspired by an actual experience of a child.
Our intention was to create a piece that speaks to the effect that anti-Black racism has on Black children.
The little girl in this case has been given the pseudonym of Joy to protect her anonymity. This piece is about resistance through truth-telling. There is healing in telling your truth. Joy’s mother has worked closely with me throughout this process in an effort to give voice to how this incident has affected her daughter. But also to empower her.
Our goal is to create tools that provide Black children, parents, guardians and educators with a point of entry to speak to the trauma experienced through this interaction with the police and the long-lingering effects of a loss of trust induced by this trauma.
This VR experience and short film was born out of a deliberate intention to examine Canada’s deeply rooted history of systemic anti-Black racism through eyes and the voice of a child who experienced.
We would like to tell Joy’s complete account for the day so we’re going to expand the experience and the narrative of that day.
VR is a new medium for me as a storyteller and stepping into it felt very risky. But watching audience members become emotionally affected at the same moment in the experience repeatedly was incredible. Somewhere between our intention and the technology of the experience, people were genuinely moved. It was incredibly satisfying.
My favourite part of this experience was working with artists outside of my field to create an innovative and interactive story to go with Joy’s powerful narration.
I’m most excited about using our experience to continue exploring ways to centre Black children to tell their own stories of how they’re effected by anti-Black racism in schools.
About Karen Chapman
Born to Guyanese parents, award-winning filmmaker Karen Chapman is committed to honing her craft as a storyteller. She is an alumnus of Emily Carr University, the Banff Centre, Women in the Director Chair, the CaribbeanTales Incubator, the HotDocs Accelerator and TIFF Talent Lab and the TIFF 2020 Accelerator.
Chapman’s CBC Short Doc, Walk Good won WIFT - Toronto’s 2017 Audience Choice Award at their annual Showcase and her short, Lesson Injustice won the Best Screenplay Award the year after.
In 2018, she completed the Cineplex Film Program - Directors’ Lab at the Canadian Film Centre and was named one of the “5 Filmmakers to Watch” by Playback Magazine.
Chapman’s love story, Essequibo Rapture, won the Caribbean Film Academy’s International Screenplay Competition and it received funding from Bell Media’s, Harold Greenberg, Shorts to Feature Fund.
Her VR experience, They Should be Flowers, premiered at HotDocs and was nominated for a Canada Screen Award for Best Immersive Non-Fiction.
Her short Measure, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2019, where it won the International Hollywood Foreign Press Award and Residency at the 2020, Golden Globe Awards.
Chapman is currently preparing to shoot her first feature film, Village Keeper,through Telefilm Canada’s Talent Program.