This is North Preston
Jaren Hayman’s well rounded documentary This is North Preston looks at what rightfully and wrongfully is one of Canada’s most maligned, feared, and somewhat misunderstood communities.
North Preston, Nova Scotia is the largest black settlement in Canada; rich in history and once serving as the final stop on the Underground Railroad. Today, it’s a hotbed for sex traffickers and an astronomically high level of gun violence for a town with a population just around 4,000. Authorities claim that the infamous North Preston’s Finest are the cause of all the communities greatest ills, but ask anyone in the organization – which strenuously refutes being called a gang and prefers being branded as a lifestyle – and they’ll say that any of their transgressions are the result of constant racial profiling and over a century of having to answer to a predominantly white political and policing power structure.
In its finest moments, This is North Preston walks a delicate line between sympathizing with North Preston’s Finest and openly calling them out on their hypocrisy. Through intimate access and interviews with residents past and present, police officers, politicians, historians, pimps, and victims of sexual violence, Hayman paints a thorough and complex picture that offers no easy answers, but notes that change on all sides is needed for North Preston to turn its image around.
It stumbles in the final ten minutes by following a thread that feels tacked on and irrelevant to the larger picture (and since the film is barely 70 minutes, it might be to pad things out to feature length), but the rest of This is North Preston is expertly realized food for thought.
This is North Preston opens at Cineplex Yonge and Dundas in Toronto and Cineplex Dartmouth Crossing in Halifax on Friday, May 17, 2019.
Check out the trailer for This is North Preston:
This review originally appeared as part of our coverage of the 2019 Canadian Film Fest.