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Unarmed Verses (2016)

  • Documentary
  • 1h 25m
  • Canada

Price: $4.99 + taxes and fees

Bonus Content: Rental includes over 65 minutes of bonus content, including an interview with filmmaker Charles Officer on Unarmed Verses and systemic racism in Canadian media. Scroll down to watch.

Charles Officer’s affecting 2017 Hot Docs prizewinner follows a sensitive Toronto teen as she discovers the power of poetry — and of her own voice.

Charles Officer’s deeply affecting Unarmed Verses — winner of the Best Canadian Feature Documentary prize at Hot Docs in 2017 — follows Francine Valentine, a sensitive, shy, and fiercely curious adolescent, as she discovers the power of poetry, of music, and of her own voice. Officer spent over a year documenting Francine and her family, and much of his film is devoted to her involvement in a songwriting and recording program run by the grassroots community-building organization Art Starts.

Though clearly gifted, Francine battles both her diffidence and deep-seated insecurities about her identity. (A single, profound shot of her bedroom wall depicts a poster of two girls — European and Asian in appearance — identified through graffiti as “perfect.”) Living with her father, elderly grandmother, and brother in a Toronto Community Housing project, Francine is also facing relocation to make way for a new mixed-use development, an index of the city’s relentless gentrification and a lack of concern for existing residents.

All of this is assembled seamlessly and lyrically by Officer, whose skill is especially evident in his delicate use of sound — as befits his intriguing, young subject. Similar to Officer’s TIFF 2020 selection Akilla’s Escape, which utilizes the established talents of poet-musician-actor Saul Williams, Unarmed Voices draws on the filmmaker’s keen ear and artistic vision.


Official Selection, 2018 Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival


Charles Officer



Bonus Content

7 mins


TIFF’s Cameron Bailey and Robyn Citizen on BLACK FUTURES, a new film programme that explores what it means to be Black and on screen now and tomorrow.

7 mins

Interview: Charles Officer on UNARMED VERSES

Filmmaker Charles Officer on UNARMED VERSES and systemic racism in Canadian media.

52 mins

Event: Youth Film Series – UNARMED VERSES

Lea Marin, Carleen Robinson, and Francine Valentine join TIFF for a youth-forward conversation about Charles Officer’s UNARMED VERSES.