Vancouver Courier “Nightmare on Cambie Street”

‘Darkumentary’ captures Cambie construction horror

Sandra Thomas, Vancouver Courier

Published: Wednesday, October 03, 2007

When local filmmaker Ana Valine first decided to make a documentary about the ongoing construction on Cambie Street, she initially thought she’d take a humourous look at the issue.

“I thought, ‘No one’s dying down there, I’ll do it as a spoof,'” Valine says. “But once I started asking questions, I realized this is serious stuff, so my film ended up being a lot more serious and dark than I planned.”

That’s not to say Nightmare on Cambie Street doesn’t have its funny moments, particularly scenes shot with an unidentified foul-mouthed angry man whose rant gives Canadian comedian Rick Mercer a run for his money. As well, Valine successfully gives her 15-minute “darkumentary,” which premiers this week at the Vancouver International Film Festival, the look and feel of a B-movie horror by using Psycho-style music and creepy close ups.

Cut and cover tunneling began on Cambie Street two years ago as part of the ongoing Canada Line rapid transit project. Cut and cover tunneling is done by digging huge craters in the street and building the rapid transit line in the hole, section by section. When complete, the Canada Line will connect Vancouver to Richmond and the Vancouver International Airport. The project was initially proposed to include bore tunneling along most of Cambie, so merchants were caught off guard with the change of plans. Since the tunneling began, almost 40 businesses have been forced to close or relocate because of traffic disruptions due to construction.

Valine says she purposefully didn’t research all of the politics of the controversy before she hit the street. Accompanied by two friends who volunteered as her film crew, she shot the movie guerrilla-style in one day and paid for it with her credit card. During the filming, Valine grew more and more upset as the business owners and residents she met told her of how the construction has devastated their lives.

“It’s one thing to put up with the noise and the disruption–it’s another thing to lose your business,” Valine says. “I asked the owner of the Don Don [noodle café] what he was going to do now, and he said, ‘I guess I’ll have to put on a suit and look for another job.’ It’s ridiculous.”

At one point, Valine and crew filmed inside one of the deep trenches under construction. As they emerged from the pit at 12th Avenue near city hall, coincidently, Mayor Sam Sullivan was going by. Valine asked the mayor if he’d be willing to speak on camera and he agreed. In the film Sullivan explains how short-term pain is needed for long-term gain. “It was just a matter of timing, and he was really very gracious.”

As for the possibility of a happy ending for any of the merchants on Cambie, Valine isn’t so sure.

“I guess that depends on who you ask,” she says. “It’s been absolutely devastating for 40 businesses so there will be no happy ending for them. They’re done. I also think [Cambie Street] will lose its charm and become just another generic sleek neighbourhood.”

Valine’s directorial debut, Alice and Bastard, garnered two Golden Sheaf Awards at the Yorkton Short Film and Video Festival for best director as well as two Leo nominations for emerging filmmaker. Her second short, A Love Poem, is currently touring film festivals.

Nightmare on Cambie Street screens with Chinook Wind at the Vancouver International Film Festival, Oct. 6 and 7, at Pacific Cinematheque. Go to for more info.

© Vancouver Courier 2007