Two hours from Toronto lies the town of Markdale. Jesse McCracken takes us there to film his father and grandfather and Markdale. After all this is where he grew up and drifted away from this town of 1,500 in the Grey Highlands Municipality.
There is no doubt the town was on the verge of total obscurity as business after business closed and the only factory left is Chapman’s Ice Cream. Even the school has closed as well as the town’s medical facility.
Through McCraken’s father, one of the initial members of a motorcycle club called “The Redneck Riders” we hear about the gold old days when Markdale was bustling to its point of near demise. Grandfather is a real character loving his tattoos, cigarettes and beer and beer. The stories are sometimes sad but reflective of two generations in the family. The town is mostly full of old white people. The Rotary Club members are for the most part old men in the sunset of their lives. The church service is attended by a scant few.
Quite frankly the town is on its knees with no reason for anyone to remain and who will come with young children to a town that does not have a school!
I know comparisons are odious but this documentary reminds me of a film from Brazil I saw last night called the “Last Forest” where the indigenous Yamomami people of Brazil and Venezuela are faced with extinction as rampant hordes of gold prospectors cut down and destroy the forest home of the Yamomami. The change of time has a way of upending life.
However a new housing development starts attracting a multi-cultural migration from Toronto with its unaffordable real estate prices. Chapman’s buys the school. The new Rotary Club president is the youngest ever. Markdale is saved by the high real estate prices in Toronto and can the existing residents adapt to the change?
Jesse is reconciled with his father and seems to have found hope that Markdale can be saved if the locals can handle the change of the guard to youth and multiculturalism.
A gentle and calming documentary that brings its viewers hope of a renaissance of Markdale.
You can see the film up to May 9th.You can purchase tickets here https://www.hotdocs.ca/