Can boring Ottawa shed its image as the town that fun forgot?
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A new documentary takes aim at the idea of Ottawa as a "town that fun forgot" and turns it on its head.
"I was feeling frustrated about living in Ottawa when I came up with the idea," said Amen Jafri, director of The City That Fun Forgot? "I feel Ottawa has a lot of potential as a city, but it never quite gets there."
The unfortunate nicknames such as "Coma City", "Ottawa, Sparta on the Tundra" and "the town that fun forgot" all originate from celebrated Maclean's columnist Allan Fotheringham who lived in the city covering politics during the late '60s and early '70s.
"He still hates Ottawa," said Jafri, who interviewed Fotheringham for the film. "One of the big things for him is that Ottawa is an incestuous kind of town. He described that when he was here he found out one of the Prime Minister's speech writers was reporting as a journalist on the PM at the same time."
Yet the Ottawa of the '70s is a far cry from today. A booming tech sector in the '90s laid the ground for interesting tech startups that sprung from the demise of Nortel and rise of RIM.
Lots of new organizations have taken up the torch, Jafri said. "Places like Invest Ottawa now exist, but we need more like that to diversify our economy. I think we need to encourage more entrepreneurship in the city."
For her new documentary, Jafri spoke with a gamut of those trying to make Ottawa a better place, she said. Among those interviewed were local artists, a city councillor, entrepreneurs and editors of the Apt 613 blog.
"One reaction while making the film was that there's a lot of things happening, but they're hidden" Jafri said. "You shouldn't have to look for fun in your city. My reaction to that is 'why is fun hidden in Ottawa?'"
"We need to redefine what we want Ottawa to be as a city," she said. "What do we want to become? We want to capture that conversation as it's ongoing."