January 7, 2013

Images of Polytechnique

This blog post has been written by Po, a SASC volunteer.

During this final exam season (December 2012), I volunteered for a film screening of the movie Polytechnique, hosted by the Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC), which aimed to remember the lives lost to the Montreal Massacre that occurred on December 6th, 1989. A man with a rifle walked onto the campus of L’École Polytechnique and deliberately shot and killed 14 innocent women who he believed to be feminists. The film showed me a haunting of gun violence and the horrors hate can accomplish.

Gun violence is not new to me. I recognize that it is an increasingly growing issue especially in the United States right now after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. I suppose what shocked me the most in the depiction of the events were the suddenness of the attack and the unwavering nature of the gunman. I applaud the director Denis Villeneuve for presenting such a believable performance by all the actors and actresses. The gunman’s psychotic dedication to a cause so unworthy of dedication provoked a mix bag of feelings that I had trouble dealing with, even after walking out of the theatre that night.

While heading to my car, the cold night air and the fact that I was standing on an university campus so similar to the one I had just saw led me to draw many similarities to my own experiences. I am an engineering student who hopes to graduate in the upcoming school year and the concerns of the protagonist Valerie are also my concerns. Her internal conflict between starting a family and striving for a job in a traditionally male-dominated industry is a topic that I have discussed with female friends in my department. Applying for internships (which she correctly states are not a “real job”), asking friends for notes, and discussing thermodynamic properties while doing mundane chores allow me to draw many parallels to her life.

Played by Karine Vanasse, Valerie is like every engineering student that I know of. She is smart and ambitious. Dreaming of a professional life in the aerospace industry. The one difference is that she has been scarred by the events that day. Engulfed by the hate of one individual for the rest of her life. Targeted because of an identity that she was born into. Blamed for political motivations of which her accuser assigned. It was the realization that the events of that day would shape her entire outlook that left me to question what foundations I built my own perspectives on.

Most importantly, it made me aware of how powerful ideas may become.

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