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Film Festival hunted down flicks that do justice to its founder

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Cathy Dobson

Sarnia’s Justice Film Festival committee struggled to determine the most appropriate way to salute their founder after Thea DeGroot passed away in the spring.

“We want to honour her legacy,” said Jessica Weening, a committee member who joined shortly after DeGroot started the festival in 2007.

“Thea created the film festival out of her passion for education and justice,” Weening said. “She did so much behind the scenes to keep this project going.”

When it came to choosing six films for the 2018-19 season, Weening presented the committee with about 35 documentary ideas. Each year she does exhaustive research to come up with a list of possibilities.

From there, the committee thoroughly discussed which six they preferred and how they could honour Thea.

To that end, their first choice is Won’t You Be My Neighbour, a much-lauded documentary about the life of children’s television personality Fred Rogers.

“When we were reviewing it, we talked about Mr. Rogers’ kindness, his integrity and his sincerity,” said Weening.  “He was all those things but also a quiet radical.

“We couldn’t think of any better way to describe Thea.  For us, Mr. Rogers and Thea are linked.”

Following the screening at the Sarnia Library Auditorium on Saturday, Oct. 13 at 7 p.m., there will be a discussion about how Sarnians can be better neighbours.

Jim McIntyre, a colleague of DeGroot’s with the Citizens for Public Justice in Ottawa, will help facilitate and speak about being a global neighbour.

Gayle Montgomery from the Lambton Circles program will also speak.

“We expect our first night without Thea will be very difficult,” said Weening. “But we thought shining the light on being a good neighbour would be really appropriate.”

Sarnia’s Justice Film Festival has been strongly supported for the past 11 years, Weening added. Between 75 and 200 see each film free-of-charge. However, donations are encouraged.

Other films for this year’s Sarnia Justice Film Festival include:


DEATH BY DESIGN: The underbelly of the electronics industry and its cost to the environment and human health. Saturday, Nov. 17.

WHAT WALAA WANTS: Walaa is determined to become one of the few women on the Palestinian Security Forces. Saturday, Jan. 19.

RECOVERY BOYS: Four young men in a farming-based rehab forge a bond as they try to reinvent their lives after years of addiction. Saturday, Feb. 16.

AT THE FORK: A refreshingly unbiased look at how farm animals are raised for our consumption. Saturday, March 23.

HAPPENING: The dawn of the clean energy era as it creates jobs, turns profits and makes communities stronger and healthier. Saturday, April 13.

All films start at 7 p.m. at the Sarnia Library Theatre on Christina Street. For more, visit Facebook at Sarnia Justice Film Festival.


The Arts Journal features stories important to the cultural fabric of our community. If you have an idea, contact Cathy Dobson at [email protected].


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