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Unarmed Verses

Charles Officer
2016 | 85 min 43

Prizes and awards

  • Best Canadian Feature DocumentaryHot Docs 2017

  • Best Canadian DocumentaryVancouver International Film Festival 2017

  • Official SelectionEBS International Documentary Festival 2017

  • Rogers Audience Choice AwardRegent Park Film Festival 2017

  • People's Choice Award 2017Canada's Top Ten Film Festival - TIFF

  • Official Selection Seattle International Film Festival 2018


Long Synopsis


Clip #1

Clip #2

Promotional Materials


Francine Valentine and Krystle Chance.
Tajah and Francine Valentine.
Aerial shot of Leslie Nymark aka Villaways.
Kids from the Villaways community participating in the Art Starts music program.
Night shot of homes in the Villaways community.
Keturah Francis (Francine’s Grandmother).
Arts Starts music instructor, Krystle Chance, working with youth participating in the program.
Excerpt from poem written by Francine Valentine.


Charles Officer
Director and Writer
Photo : Justin Morris

Charles Officer

An alumnus of the Canadian Film Centre Directors’ Lab, Charles Officer began his filmmaking career with a series of award-winning short films that screened at festivals around the world. His debut fiction feature, Nurse.Fighter.Boy, premiered at TIFF 2008, was released theatrically by Mongrel Media and earned 10 Genie nominations. His feature documentary debut, Mighty Jerome, won four Leo Awards in 2011 and an Emmy Award in 2012 for Best Historical Documentary.

Officer directed Stone Thrower: The Chuck Ealey Story for the eight-episode documentary series Engraved on a Nation (2014 CSA for Best Documentary Series). In 2017, the CBC’s Firsthand commissioned The Skin We’re In, featuring acclaimed journalist and activist Desmond Cole. Officer’s latest feature documentary, Unarmed Verses, premiered to major acclaim in 2017 and won the Best Canadian Feature awards at Hot Docs 2017 and VIFF 2017.

He recently directed several episodes of the dramatic series 21 Thunder, which is having its international premiere on Netflix in 2018. Officer is currently in post-production on his next feature, Invisible Essence: Le Petit Prince, a cinematic meditation based on the classic novella by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Projects in development include the feature crime drama Akilla’s Escape and a mini-series adaptation of Mordecai Richler’s novel Son of a Smaller Hero.


Lea Marin
Photo : NFB

Lea Marin

Lea Marin is an award-winning Toronto-based producer with more than 18 years’ experience in the film and television industry. A graduate of the Canadian Film Centre’s Producers’ Lab, Lea joined the National Film Board of Canada as a producer in 2006.

Her most recent film credits include Charles Officer’s Unarmed Verses, which won the  Best Canadian Feature Documentary Award at Hot Docs 2017 and the 2018 Canada’s Top Ten People’s Choice Award, in addition to being nominated for two Canadian Screen Awards; and  Picture This, directed by Jari Osborne, which screened at the Inside Out and OUTeast film festivals, winning Best Canadian Short and the Audience Award for Best Short at both festivals.

Other credits include My Prairie Home, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014 and was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award; The Portrait, directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Hubert Davis; and Astra Taylor’s Examined Life, which launched at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2008.

Lea recently completed production on Taylor’s follow-up to Examined Life, the feature doc What Is Democracy?, which will be released in 2018, and is currently in production on Throat, a co-collaboration between filmmaker Chelsea McMullan and artist/activist Tanya Tagaq.

Anita Lee
Executive Producer (NFB)
Photo : NFB

Anita Lee

Anita Lee is Executive Producer and Head of Studio in Toronto for the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), where she helms the programming and production of Ontario projects, including Canadian and international co-productions, and forges key strategic partnerships. Lee is a multi-award-winning producer whose credits include some of the most critically acclaimed works in NFB history, such as Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell, named Best Documentary Feature by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and New York Film Critics Circle and Best Canadian Film by the Toronto Film Critics Association. The Apology was awarded a Peabody in 2019 and a 2020 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Silver Baton. Recent projects as executive producer include: StatelessThe Book of Distance (Sundance 2020); This Is Not a Movie (TIFF 2019); What Is Democracy? (TIFF 2018); What Walaa Wants (Berlin 2018; DGC Special Jury Prize for Canadian Feature Documentary at Hot Docs 2018; TIFF’s Canada’s Top Ten Film; CSA nomination for 2019 Ted Rogers Best Feature Length Documentary); Unarmed Verses (Best Canadian Feature Documentary at Hot Docs 2017; TIFF’s Canada’s Top Ten Film; CSA nomination for 2018 Ted Rogers Best Feature Length Documentary); A Better Man (Hot Docs 2017; Doc NYC 2017) and Draw Me Close (Tribeca 2017, Venice 2017). Lee established the NFB’s Creative Non-Fiction Immersive Lab, which partnered with the CFC and Ford Foundation on Open ImmersionVR, the Creative Doc VR Lab with the National Theatre (UK), and Otherly, a non-fiction Instagram Stories Lab in partnership with POV Spark (PBS). Lee is the Founder/Advisory Chair of the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.



Written and Directed by
Charles Officer

Produced by
Lea Marin

Executive Producer
Anita Lee

Director of Photography
Mike McLaughlin

Andres Landau

Editorial Consultant
Ricardo Acosta

Sound Recordist
Mike Filippov

Original Music Composed by

Francine Valentine Krystle Chance
Alva Valentine Q’Mal Labad-Workman
Keturah Francis Harry Knazan
Ryan Johnson Des Rouges
Kenny Johnson Jaydahmann
Lavane Kelly Sydney Duff
Carleen Robinson The Villaways Community

Production Supervisor
Mark Wilson

Studio Administrator
Stefanie Brantner

Aerial Photography
Orbis Aerials

Additional Cinematography
Charles Officer
Greg Biskup
Blake Hannahson
Adrian Vieni

1st Assistant Camera
Christopher Goll

Digital Media Technicians
Zachary Cox
Curry Leamen

Additional Sound Recording
Jason Milligan
Scott Tremblay

Production Coordinators
Andrew Martin-Smith
Natalie Van Dine

Community Liaison Officer
Carleen Robinson

Technical Coordinator
Marcus Matyas

Production Managers
Lori Chodos
Nadine Simunic

Assistant Editors
Curry Leamen
Zoya Rezaie

Online Editor
Serge Verreault

Re-recording Mixer
Serge Boivin

Sound Facility
Tattersall Sound and Picture

Sound Designer
David McCallum

Sound FX Editors
Claire Dobson
Krystin Hunter

Marketing Manager
Melissa Wheeler

Pat Dillon-Moore

Legal Counsel
Peter Kallianiotis

Written and Performed by Jean-Michel Blais
Courtesy of Arts & Crafts Productions

“Hasselblad 2”
Written and Performed by Jean-Michel Blais
Courtesy of Arts & Crafts Productions

“Hasselblad 4”
Written and Performed by Jean-Michel Blais
Courtesy of Arts & Crafts Productions

“As a Bird or Branch”
Performed by Colin Stetson
Written by Colin Stetson
Published by Third Side Music Inc.
Courtesy of Colin Stetson

“This Bed Of Shattered Bone”
Performed by Colin Stetson
Written by Colin Stetson, Ben Frost
Published by Third Side Music Inc.
Courtesy of Constellation Records

“The Righteous Wrath Of An Honorable Man”
Performed by Colin Stetson
Written by Colin Stetson
Published by Third Side Music Inc.
Courtesy of Constellation Records

Footage from “Lost & Found Music Studios” Courtesy of
Boat Rocker Media

Special Thanks
Ionie Officer
Brigid Tierney
Liz Forsberg
Katherine Earl
Amiga Taylor
Marsha Greene
Geoff Morrison
Garvia Bailey
Roslyn Kalloo
Clark Johnson
Jake Yanowski
Donna Cowan
Jane Gutteridge
Justine Pimlott
Renée Lottridge
Lolo Desrosiers-Guité
Anya Martin
Glenn Martin
Nadia Martin
Trevor Martin
William Kowalczyk
Arsema Berhane
Shelley Carroll
Art Starts
Apollo Studios
Art Gallery of Ontario
City of Toronto
Parkway Forest Community Centre
Toronto Community Housing Corporation
Victory Social Club



Press Relations

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    The NFB is Canada’s public producer and distributor of award-winning documentaries, auteur animation, interactive stories and participatory experiences, working with talented creators across the country. The NFB is taking action to combat systemic racism and become a more open and diverse organization, while working to strengthen Indigenous-led production and gender equity in film and digital media. NFB productions have won more than 7,000 awards, including 12 Oscars. To access this unique content, visit NFB.ca.