From a tweet to TIFF: Dal Health researcher's collaboration with filmmaker Elliot Page ready for its big premiere

- September 3, 2019

Dr. Ingrid Waldron, pictured outside Seaview United Baptist Church on the site of Africville in Halifax, Nova Scotia. (Nick Pearce photo)
Dr. Ingrid Waldron, pictured outside Seaview United Baptist Church on the site of Africville in Halifax, Nova Scotia. (Nick Pearce photo)

Last fall, Ingrid Waldron noticed something surprising on Twitter.
A post using the hashtag for her book, There’s Something in the Water, had received thousands of likes and shares, almost overnight. Dr. Waldron, an associate professor in Dal Health’s School of Nursing with a cross appointment to the Department of Psychiatry, tracked the attention back to a social media post from Oscar- and Emmy-award-nominated actor-director Elliot Page, who enthusiastically endorsed the book.

Page had read The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest by Joan Baxter, about environmental issues in Pictou Landing First Nation, and when she went looking for more information about environmental racism, she found Dr. Waldron’s book.

About 10 months later, that tweet has turned into a powerful documentary based on Dr. Waldron’s book of the same name.

There’s Something in the Water, co-produced by Dr. Waldron, Page, Ian Daniel, and Julia Sanderson will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday, September 8, and at the Atlantic International Film Festival in Halifax on Saturday, September 14.

A scene from There's Something in the Water.

Dr. Waldron, also a senior research scholar & team lead for the Health of People of African Descent Research Cluster, Healthy Populations Institute, says Page was perfect to collaborate with on this project.

“He is humble and an excellent listener. He made it clear from the start that this project was not about him. It was about the communities living with the effects of environmental racism and the women who were advocating for them.”  

“We are thrilled and grateful that TIFF has accepted our documentary, There’s Something in the Water,” said co-producers Elliot Page and Ian Daniel. “Thank you to everyone who was interviewed and opened their communities to us. We are excited to say that this is just the beginning, and hopeful that the large platform TIFF provides will help spark the change that is needed.”

Star power

After she saw the tweet last year, Dr. Waldron reached out to Page on social media and the two connected. Determined to learn more about environmental racism in her home province, Page suggested setting up a conference call between herself, Dr. Waldron and some of the women whose stories were featured in the book.

“Elliot had an upcoming break in production and wanted to travel to Nova Scotia with her co-producer on the show Gaycation, Ian Daniel, and some film gear,” recalls Dr. Waldron. “They wanted to interview the women on the front lines who were struggling to have their voices heard.”

This spring, Page and Daniel traveled across the province to speak with the women in Dr. Waldron’s book. Originally the plan was to share the interviews as stories on social media. Once the trip was complete and Page and Dr. Waldron reviewed the footage, they had a deep realization.

“When we looked at the video, we were moved by the power and gravity in the women’s stories and it occurred to us that we had to do something bigger with the footage. We had to put it together in a feature length film,” said Dr. Waldron.

She had used diverse knowledge mobilization approaches in the past to share her research findings. But she says partnering with a celebrity of Page’s fame, and having their collaboration premiere at one of the biggest cinematic events in the world is definitely a first.  

“My hope for the film is to amplify the voices and stories of Indigenous and Black communities on the front lines of environmental justice organizing and activism in Nova Scotia and Canada,” said Dr. Waldron. “I want it to engage and touch the hearts and humanity of viewers, including politicians, in ways that incite them to act on environmental injustices and other social injustices happening across this country and the world.”

About the Filmmakers

Dr. Ingrid Waldron is an associate professor in the Dalhousie Faculty of Health School of Nursing with a cross appointment in the Faculty of Medicine (Department of Psychiatry). She is also a Senior Research Scholar & Team Lead, The Health of People of African Descent Research Cluster, Healthy Populations Institute (HPI). Her scholarship focuses specifically on the impact of inequality and discrimination on the health and mental health of African Nova Scotian, African Canadian, Mi’kmaw, immigrant and refugee communities in Canada. Her book, There’s Something In The Water, Environmental Racism in Indigenous & Black Communities, won the 2019 Atlantic Book Award for Scholarly Writing.

Ellen Page, Oscar and Emmy award-nominated actor-director, was born and raised in Nova Scotia. She engages in deeply personal and political dialogue with women at the forefront of some of Nova Scotia’s most urgent environmental crises. Based on the book of the same name by Ingrid Waldron, There's Something in the Water explores the topic of environmental racism, poignantly shining a light on the Canadian government’s current and historical decisions to prioritize the profits of large corporations over the health of Indigenous and African Nova Scotian communities.

Ian Daniel is a producer, filmmaker, writer and curator in NY. He co-hosted and executive produced the Emmy-nominated TV show "GAYCATION," along with actress Ellen Page. Daniel began his journalism career as an Associate Producer and intern at TODAY on NBC in New York and Los Angeles. Daniel is also the former Director of Artistic Programs at The Civilians, a theater company in NY that derives their work from intensive investigations into today’s vital questions. At The Civilians, Daniel directed the investigations for several projects. Additionally, he curated and directed a live investigative cabaret and podcast series “Let Me Ascertain You” which centers on interviews on topics such as crime in the US, marriage inequality, LGBTQ issues, the porn industry, Occupy Wall Street and the Women’s Prison in Bogota Colombia. As a curator, he has organized several exhibits and multimedia events at Eyebeam Art and Technology Center, Exit Art, LaMaMa Gallery, Storefront Bushwick and the Waterpod Project in NYC and Brooklyn.


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