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Filmfest doc ‘Paper Tigers’ respects the raw voice of teens

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Cathy Dobson

Traumatized teens acting out and turning to drugs is a hot topic addressed by the next movie shown free-of-charge at the Sarnia Justice Film Festival.

Paper Tigers, a documentary written and directed by James Redford, offers one high school’s solution to negative student behaviour.

It depicts a successful strategy undertaken by educators at Lincoln High School in Walla Walla Washington to help students overwhelmed by toxic stress.

The teens in the film admit to drug use, violence and other out-of-control behaviour. But the adults at Lincoln High School manage to turn many around and improve attendance and grades by making connections and showing them someone cares.

The film asserts that just one dependable and caring adult can offset a child’s emotional pain, and often that person is a teacher.

“We’ve had films about education before and they were very well received,” said film festival chairman Thea deGroot. “We have a society right now dealing with a lot of anxiety and it’s showing up in suicide rates and drug use.

“Young people seem to have less resilience and there are a lot walking around with trauma that affects them long-term,” said deGroot, a local retired teacher.

“Studies are showing that as long as one person is out there who sees them as worthwhile human beings, teenagers feel like they are worth it.”

Redford, who is the son of actor Robert Redford and Lola VanWagenen, honours the voice and opinion of the teens in his film, offering raw and valuable insight into their rough childhoods.

Three local professionals will take questions and lead a discussion following the screening of Paper Tigers. They include Gayle Montgomery of Circles; Bob Sutton, a retired high school counsellor; and Ellie Fraser, mental health lead for the Lambton Kent District School Board.

The Sarnia Justice Film Festival is in its ninth year and offers a series of six relevant films each winter.

“It’s really hard to choose the six,” said deGroot.  “There are so many good films around these days.”

Audience numbers are strong this season, she added. Generally 80 to 120 attend.


WHAT: Paper Tigers shown in conjunction with the Sarnia Justice Film Festival.

WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 18. Info displays at 6:30 p.m. Movie at 7 p.m.

WHERE: Sarnia Library Theatre

TICKETS: Free, donations appreciated.



The International Symphony Orchestra is presenting a family-friendly show called Dazzling Delights on Friday Feb. 24 at the Imperial Theatre, and the next evening in the Port Huron Northern High School Theatre.

This show features sax player Matthew Younglove from South Carolina. Music is chosen to appeal to sophisticated concert audiences as well as the family crowd.

For details, visit or call 519-337-7775.

Have a great idea for the Arts Journal? Contact [email protected] or 226-932-0985.

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