Unmasking the Secret Lives of Public Servants
October 31, 2017 / Ottawa, Canada – Filmmaker Amen Jafri launches a new documentary series, The Secret Lives of Public Servants, to reveal the unusual and extraordinary hobbies of public service employees outside the 9-to-5.
Three short episodes explore the work of a radical artist, a comic book creator and a cosplayer, each of whom provide a unique insight into the creative process and the limited perception of their day jobs. The first episode, recently screened and nominated for two awards at Brooklyn Web Fest, is available as of Oct. 31, 2017, for viewing on Apt613.ca, YouTube, Stareable.com and amenjafri.com.
This is Jafri’s second major documentary endeavour. Her first documentary, The City That Fun Forgot?, explored Canada’s Capital’s reputation for being dull and ignited a city-wide conversation in newspapers, radio and blogs.
“There are a lot of creative people who work 9 to 5 in public service—I know because I was one of them,” says Jafri. “The public service can be a bit dry and no matter how much they may love their jobs, many folks need a creative outlet. They find that in their after-hours hobbies or secret lives.” Key themes that emerge from the series, include: political engagement, conformity in the workplace and the importance of “secret lives”. “The goal of this series is to humanize public servants in a positive way. Depression is a longstanding issue, some of which can be attributed to negative stereotypes and lack of public recognition.”
Globally, the public service makes up a large percentage of general employment, from 6% in Japan to 30% in Norway (OECD (2017), Government at a Glance). Despite this, the negative stereotypes prevail. In recent years, there has been increased appetite in popular culture for exploring the concept of bureaucracy, finding the humour in it and humanizing the people who work within it. Well-known international examples of this genre include the photo essay series Bureaucratics (Netherlands), the television series Utopia (Australia), The Hollow Men (Australia), The Thick of It (UK) and Parks and Recreation (US).
The series is currently being submitted for consideration to international film and web festivals. A second season is in development, to broaden the geographic make-up of the featured public servants.
Derek is an award-winning director, director of photography (DP) and editor from Ottawa. He has served as DP on several independent features, TV series (narrative and documentary) as well as music and corporate videos with his company Obscura Creative. His most recent project, Primary Colours (a cinepoem in collaboration with spoken word artist Philosi-Fire), has been an official selection at over a dozen film festivals around the world, as well as screening on CBC nationally in Canada.Derek Price, Director of Photography (DP)
Hingman Leung is an Ottawa-based videographer and editor, specializing in telling stories through the lens of culture and food. Her short documentary on food waste in China received the Public Ethnography Award in 2015. Hingman has produced and edited video content for a growing list of Ottawa organizations, businesses, and not-for-profits. She also captures weddings for wonderful couples in Ottawa and abroad.Hingman Leung, Editor
Laszlo has been specializing in location sound for the past thirteen years. His AV career first started in the 1970s at a community cable station. After graduating from TV broadcasting at Fanshawe College, his love of film and television has carried him to countless other adventures in features, commercials, series, corporate videos and documentaries.Laszlo Szijarto, Sound
The Public Servants
By day he helps lead protection services at the National Gallery of Canada, ensuring public safety and security. By night, Richard transforms into a superhero, er, cosplayer. The first character he portrayed was Captain America in May 2012 at the inaugural Ottawa ComicCon. In addition to designing and handmaking his own costumes, he also subjects himself to a rigorous regimen of diet and exercise to attain a true superhero physique. Richard is also part the League of Superheroes, a charity organization in Ottawa that participates in local children’s event and charities.Richard Wong (Cosplayer)
By day, he works for the federal public service (we can’t reveal much more than that!). By night, he burns, shreds, and smashes stuff to pieces and exhibits it in museums and galleries across the National Capital. He’s best known for his gas masks and antler sculptures and can be seen cycling the city in a suit and gas mask.Marc Adornato (Artist)
She’s a Senior Communications Advisor and Speechwriter at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency by day and a comic book artist by night, creating the Eternal Romance Series and contributing to other projects like Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. Janet’s work has been featured in the book, The Great Women Cartoonists, by Trina Robbins.Janet Hetherington (Comic Book Creator)
Amen (Ai-mehn) Jafri
Amen Jafri discovered her love for film and television only after she became a working professional and 9-5er. It took another five years to leave the stability of the public service and pursue her creative ambitions. She has experience working on productions like feature thriller Penthouse North (starring Michael Keaton and Michelle Monaghan), Radio Canada's Toi et moi: malgré tout and working in Acquisitions at the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. Her first film, The City That Fun Forgot?, was made without any prior experience and had a sold-out premiere in 2014, garnering local and national media coverage. Since then, her other works have been shortlisted for the TVO Short Doc Contest and screened for TVO, the American Documentary Film Festival, Brooklyn Web Fest and more.