News / Ottawa

Public servants get creative in new doc

Filmmaker says she wanted to humanize often "dry" public service

Janet Hetherington, a communications professional and comic book writer, is one of three people featured in a new documentary about public service.

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Janet Hetherington, a communications professional and comic book writer, is one of three people featured in a new documentary about public service.

They're seasoned professionals in public service, assiduously working away inside cubicles on 9-5 shifts week in and week out.

But public servants have secret passions too, some of which are creative hobbies that are almost like second careers to them. That's what one Ottawa filmmaker discovered when she set out to explore public servants' lives outside of their line of work.

Amen Jafri's latest documentary series, The Secret Lives of Public Servants, chronicles three individuals who, despite working in public service, have been able to maintain a strong presence on the creative scene in Ottawa. It was nominated at the 2017 Brooklyn Web Fest.

The goal of the series is to highlight a positive, humanizing aspect of public service, a career that can be "a bit dry" and attract many stereotypes, said Jafri.

"In many corporate environments, the culture is such that it's unusual to talk too much about your passions outside of work," she said. "But despite the level of focus at work, that other life of hobbies is just as important and has a lot of value."

The series features Janet Hetherington, a senior communications advisor at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency whose private passion is to create comic books. Another short film is about Marc Adornato, who is in federal public service by day but dedicates the rest of his time to radical artistry, creating visual arts that are politically engaging.

There's also a piece about Rchard Wong, a protection services team leader at the National Gallery but at night works on cosplay - the practice of wearing costumes to portray characters fro fiction and animation.

Jafri, who herself worked in public service as a human resources advisor at Health Canada until last year, said she wanted to put a focus on ordinary servants to reflect the realities of a wider audience.

"Anyone with enormous dreams and aspirations can learn from these people about what really drives us on a daily basis," she said. "It's possible to pursue what we feel gives our life meaning."

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