Reel NW/Carts of Darkness
- Reel NW
About the Film
“Carts of Darkness” is Murray Siple’s award-winning documentary about a homeless community in North Vancouver that escapes the hardships of their daily lives by racing shopping carts down steep streets. Siple, who made snowboarding films before a car accident left him a quadriplegic, finds an unexpected bond with these men who live life on the edge.
The vehicle drifts across the center line, its speed pushing 70 km/hr. As it races downhill, the rider hangs on. Metal screams and rattles, and small wheels struggle to grip the pavement. Here, in the picture‐postcard community of North Vancouver, local bottle pickers have turned "binning" into a thriving subculture of shopping cart racing. Murray Siple, a former snowboarder and sport film director injured in a serious car accident ten years ago, returns to filmmaking to capture their story in the documentary “Carts of Darkness.”
This brotherhood of the dispossessed includes men like Big Al, a fearless cart‐rider who "bombs" the mountainside; Fergie, a still‐handsome alcoholic who rambles between his bush hideout, the homeless shelter, and the drunk tank; and Bob, a gentle artist/musician who collects just enough bottles to support his flower garden and his art. Cut off from regular jobs and family, these men live in the margins, almost invisible in a society obsessed with success and appearance. “I discovered that like them, I face an obstacle‐riddled culture of judgments based on first impressions and stereotypes," says Siple.
Big Al's wild rides come at a cost. Often, shopping carts must be stolen. But escape from the daily world of poverty, addiction, and even death is worth the price of jail. As the affinity between Big Al and Murray grows, Siple's need to recapture the visceral rush that he remembers from his snowboarding days will take a final act of daring and trust.
Shot in stunning high‐definition, “Carts of Darkness” borrows the cinematic language of snowboarding and skateboarding films to put you right in the middle of the action. Featuring tracks from Black Mountain, Ladyhawk, Vetiver, Bison, and Alan Boyd, of Little Sparta, this is a story of endurance and resourcefulness, that captures the risk and intensity of life lived on the very edge.
About the Filmmaker
Director Murray Siple began his film career making extreme sports videos including the cult classic "Cascadia" (1996) and "The Burning" (1995). In 1996, a serious car accident changed Siple's life forever when he became a quadriplegic. Ten years later, Siple returns to filmmaking, incorporating his passion and distinct viewpoint in the documentary "Carts of Darkness."
I have not always relied on a wheelchair for my mobility. As an able-bodied person I was a high school quarterback, dedicated mountain biker, skateboarder, and a snowboarder. It sounds like I was a jock but I just liked being athletic and getting outdoors. I went to college at Emily Carr and ended up spending all hours of the night editing footage I shot, appropriated, and found. I’d make films on a Steenbeck with old footage from the National Film Board of Canada's “destroy” pile. Or I’d take the school’s equipment and go film skate and snowboarding. The school didn’t like the idea of me heli-boarding on weekends while everyone else at school was looking for “objects” in alleys or performing art in a cage of some type. So I pushed off and moved to Whistler.
I lived in Whistler, B.C., and directed five independent action sport videos that were pre-“X-games” and pre-“mainstream extreme.” I set down deep roots in a short period while living in the mountain community, and traveled internationally filming snow and skateboarding. That lifestyle/dream was destroyed in 1996 when a high-speed motor vehicle accident compounded by an emergency room error rendered me a quadriplegic.
Throughout the following eight years, I continued to hope that my life could still somehow include my passion for filmmaking. Eventually, I was able to renovate a home in North Vancouver that became a model of accessibility and independence. But outside the comforting accessibility of this new home, my vantage point was largely limited to flat pathways, accessible public buildings, and shopping centers.
I learned to drive a van which extended my freedom, but my limited hand dexterity made it difficult to work a camera like I had before. So in spite of solid gains in the direction of freedom and mobility, I found myself largely retreating from the dream of returning to filmmaking. The next few years were chiefly spent adjusting to my disability and trying to ignore the craving to make films.
I discovered the story behind "Carts of Darkness" when I was grocery shopping one evening. I noticed some loud individuals who were cashing in bottles. I had a romantic vision that both of our lifestyles were stereotypes to the passing customers: the drunken and comically disordered bottle returners, and me, wheelchair-bound and precarious in my adapted vehicle. When I approached the men with the idea to make a film, a world was revealed to me I had never expected to discover in my own neighborhood.
2009 Leo Award, Best Documentary (Nature/Environment/Adventure/Science/ Technology).
Best Documentary over 30 Minutes, Picture This Film Festival, 2009.