Tag Archives: Firsthand

CBC’s Firsthand searches for “The Missing Tourist”

I’ve spent time in Yellowknife. I was lucky enough to visit the city in 2010 during a press junket for Ice Pilots NWT. It was winter, and the city was a ruggedly beautiful place full of welcoming citizens happy to host folks from Ontario.

Yellowknife is the focal point of Thursday’s episode of CBC’s documentary series Firsthand, as “The Missing Tourist,” delves into the story of Japanese tourist Atsumi Yoshikubo, who disappeared in 2014. Award-winning producer, writer and director Geoff Morrison presents the facts surrounding the case, and they become more spooky, odd and downright strange as the hour unfolds.

It all begins very straightforward and factual: Yoshikubo, two days after arriving from Japan, entered a visitors’ centre and asked about aurora borealis tours. It being October, the high season for aurora watching is the winter, tours were closed. She then visited an art gallery and bought coffee mugs. It’s one thing to deliver the facts in a dry, journalistic way; it’s another to see security camera footage of Yoshikubo, decked out in a bright pink coat and white boots in the visitors’ centre and art gallery. It adds a personal connection for the viewer. That makes it all the more stark and heartbreaking when it’s revealed that, five days later, Yoshikubo walked out of town and disappeared.

People saw her on Old Airport Road that final day, walking alone and towards the city dump, but thought nothing of it. After all, the 45-year-old had a camera and was dressed for the weather. Search and rescue took on the case, using a helicopter, while citizens from the city of just over 20,000 chipped in to help.

The fascination with true crime and missing person cases has never waned—there is a proliferation of podcasts on both subjects—and “The Missing Tourist” is an addictive watch. You can’t help but wonder, as TV news presenters, crime reporters and witnesses weigh in, what happened to Yoshikubo. Was she kidnapped? Did she slip and fall somewhere in the woods? Was she killed by a bear?

The documentary doesn’t just cover the case in Yellowknife, but jets to her home—a small prefecture in Southern Japan—to do more investigating and spotlight how big the story became there. Why would a Japanese tourist not only travel on her own to Yellowknife (most do it as part of a travel group) but in the off-season. Was she fleeing someone or something by coming to Canada? Was she looking for a new start?

By the end of the hour, the answers are given. And the journey to get there is dramatic and very well done.

Firsthand airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Image courtesy of Catherine Lutes.


Firsthand: It ain’t easy “Being Greene”

My first experience with the public face of depression was back in 2012, when TSN’s Michael Landsberg discussed it openly in the documentary “Darkness and Hope: Depression, Sports and Me.” Because of folks like he and Clara Hughes, who herself has spoken publicly about mental illness, more and more people are opening up about their struggles.

People like the Greene family, who are featured in this week’s episode of Firsthand. Written and directed by Jeff Newman, who executive-produces alongside producer Jocelyn Mitchell, “Being Greene” from Nüman Films delves into a family where mental illness is a part of their lives. Quinn Greene serves as the narrator, describing how he’s the one always looking for a laugh when he’s on stage performing. He introduces his father, Dave, rock quarry operator by day and Elvis tribute artist (he’s pretty darn good) by night; mother Roxie, a writer and intellectual; and youngest son Kane, a big-hearted guy with a gap-toothed smile. Of course, what folks see outwardly is no indication of what’s going on inside their heads.

The small-town Manitoba family pulls back the curtain on their struggles with mental illness as Dave unlocks the door to his childhood home, revealing a major case of hoarding because of a childhood of abuse and poverty. But while Dave found solace and success in performance, he became distanced from Roxie, Quinn and Kane. Roxie has attempted suicide in the past and deals with unipolar depressive disorder, Kane suffers from anxiety and suicidal thoughts and spends days in bed, unable to get up or hold a job. Quinn decides to have Kane move in with him, so he can keep tabs on his brother.

(l-r) Kane, Roxie and Quinn Greene

The problem? Quinn wants to have his own life, and feels guilty for having that desire. And when, just 13 minutes into “Being Greene,” Kane is openly discussing his dark thoughts at Sara Riel Inc., a mental health facility, I imagined he was on the right path. But then autumn and winter arrive, the darkest seasons of the year for Kane emotionally, and everything spirals out of control. With guys like Kane’s boss, Sam, thinking his employee just needs to eat more fruit to get out of his funk, it’s no wonder some people have trouble discussing their struggles.

But “Being Greene” isn’t meant to be a sob story, or a vehicle to pity the family. Rather, it’s meant to educate and encourage us to talk about our feelings and reveal what’s going on with our own mental health. And, thanks to “The Greene Warriors,” it can be entertaining too.

Firsthand airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on CBC.


Links: CBC’s Road to Mercy on Firsthand

From John Doyle of The Globe and Mail:

Link: Road to Mercy is a rumination on assisted death
Road to Mercy (CBC, 9 p.m. Thursday, on FirstHand) is presented as a film that “documents Canada’s journey into the furthest ethical frontier – a place where doctors are allowed to take a life and where society must decide on the circumstances under which they can.”

But it is really a rumination on the issue, rather than a chronicle of what is happening. As such, it is very powerful, provocative and philosophical. Continue reading.

From Sheryl Ubelacker of The Canadian Press:

Link: CBC’s Road to Mercy explores ethical frontiers of doctor-assisted death
Earlier this year, Canadians were given the legal right to seek a doctor-assisted death, but restrictions in the law governing who can access the act and under what circumstances have continued to fuel debate about this still-contentious issue.

Road to Mercy, a one-hour documentary airing Thursday on CBC-TV, explores the ethical questions surrounding physician-aided dying through the eyes of an Edmonton man with ALS, a young Belgium woman struggling with mental illness, and their families and doctors. Continue reading.


Link: Road To Mercy: Must-See TV

From Jim Bawden:

Link: Road To Mercy: Must-See TV
I have to admit I kept postponing watching my screener of the new CBC-TV documentary Road To Mercy. The subject is mercy killing and I’d lost a dear friend last year (journalist Eric McGuinness) who fought two bouts of colon cancer and then was told it had spread to his pancreas.

After enduring great pain for months he arranged a termination in Switzerland because under Canadian law any sort of assisted death was illegal. Continue reading.


Firsthand delves into doctor-assisted death with “Road to Mercy”

Firsthand‘s first documentary of the 2016-17 broadcast season couldn’t be more timely. Weeks after the doctor-assisted death of Shoeless Joe author W.P. Kinsella, “Road to Mercy” treads the controversial topic of doctors taking the lives of patients and the circumstances where they are allowed to do it.

Airing Thursday at 9 p.m. on CBC, Toronto-based filmmaker Nadine Pequeneza’s project focuses on the window between February 2015 and June 2016, after the Supreme Court ruling and before Canada’s first law on medical assistance in dying (MAID). But just because the law was passed doesn’t mean it’s clear cut and that’s what’s discussed in “Road to Mercy.” Which patients should be allowed to die (Just those who are terminally ill? What about car accident victims?) and when (Four months before they’re expected to die? Six?) are just two bullet points up for discussion. While those guidelines are worked out, the patients waiting to die agree on one thing: they want control over how they die and want to do it with dignity.

Among those who provide context in “Road to Mercy” are Maureen Taylor, an advocate for the right to die with dignity and the provincially appointed co-chair of the Ontario Advisory Panel On Physician-Assisted Dying; John Tuckwell, diagnosed with ALS in 2012 and planning his death with the help of his sister and doctor; Amy De Schutter, a 29-year-old fighting mental illness; and Quebec’s Dr. Louis Roy, who advises his ill patient Danielle Lacroix in her final days. (In Quebec, the province pre-empted the Supreme Court, passing end-of-life-care legislation in 2014, which came into effect December 2015. Unlike the Supreme Court decision, the Quebec legislation limits MAID to terminal patients.)

After watching a few minutes of John Tuckwell’s deterioration—he’s still mobile, but needs help standing and can no longer talk—it seems a no-brainer he is allowed to pull the plug. But his physician, Dr. Wendy Johnston, loathes to do it because she doesn’t want that to be an option for her patients. Maureen Taylor acknowledges it’s not all cut-and-dried either; will some segments of society, as a result of the guidelines, be deemed “expendable”?

“Road to Mercy” certainly isn’t a feel-good documentary, but it will cause viewers to pause—if they haven’t already—and consider not only where they stand on the subject of doctor-assisted death but if they’d consider it an option.

Firsthand airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on CBC.