Skip to content

The Ballad of Oppenheimer Park


Saturday, May 14, 2016 - 4:30pm
Community Partner(s)

The Ballad of Oppenheimer Park

Juan Manuel Sepúlveda | 
Mexico |
 2015 | 
70 minutes

When director Juan Manuel Sepúlveda first began to hang out in Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver, he was planning to make a film about Latino gangs. But the Central American drug dealers were long gone. Over the course of two years, as Juan became a fixture in the neighbourhood, the idea began to shift. The men and women in the park — Bear, Janet, and Harley — agreed to collaborate in making a film as long as Juan didn’t call it a documentary. Documentary crews and journalists have made the DTES synonymous with poverty and crime. It’s little wonder no one in the park was much interested in being fodder for yet another film. The Ballad of Oppenheimer Park, with its overt echoes to an earlier NFB film, The Ballad of Crowfoot, was conceived instead as an epic — a western in the style of John Ford. This film owes more to the work of Pedro Costa, in particular the Fontainhas trilogy (Ossos, In Vanda’s Room, Colossal Youth), in which the Portuguese auteur hung out with the residents from Lisbon’s marginalized neigbourhood. Like Fontainhas before it, the DTES is in the midst of enormous change, as the forces of gentrification are hard at work, remaking the place. It is neocolonialism of condos and cool new bistros. But inside the park, a community still exists. The park itself is both an archive of history, and a site of resistance. The relationships, memories, and experiences it contains are made visible through the film. In this sense, like Costa before him, Sepúlveda is engaged in critical work with the people of Oppenheimer Park, capturing their stories, bearing witness, creating an epic that will, as he states: “Open a threshold for the burning recognition of the past within the present...” -DW


Juan Manuel Sepúlveda

A graduate of the National Autonomous University of Mexico Film School, Juan Manuel Sepúlveda has being directing and producing documentary films since 2006. Since 2005 he runs the production company Fragua Cinematografía who recently co-produced the film Allende, mi abuelo Allende that won L’oeil d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. He recently finished a Master in Fine Arts at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver and nowadays he is a Member of the National System of Artists in Mexico.