Run This Town: The New Rob Ford Movie Set in Toronto but Maybe Erases One of Its Female Journalists

So, I’ve written a chunk of articles on Asian American representation here on Her Campus. Mainly because so much has happened for us this last year and it’s been really touching to see. But I’ve been waiting, just itching, for an excuse to write on another area of neglected representation that means a lot to me, Canadian representation.

Chances are, even if you’ve never stepped foot on Canadian soil, you know many Canadian cities in great visual detail. Namely, you probably know a lot of specific buildings, neighborhoods, and local landmarks in Vancouver and Toronto by heart. They’ve just always been disguised as other cities like New York, or even other countries like North Korea. Not many big film makers think Canada itself is an interesting setting, but instead just a great cheap filming location for tax purposes.

Every once in a while, though, a story comes along that’s so rooted in its local Canadian settings, that film makers use it. Off the top of my head, there’s been Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and more recently the Oscar winning short Bao.

                                                        GIF Source also RIP Honest Ed's

And now, making its world premiere at SXSW this week, there’s Run This Town. The film centers around a journalist, played by Dear Evan Hansen’s Ben Platt, following the infamous late Toronto mayor Rob Ford, played by Damian Lewis in a whole lot of prosthetics. The film came into controversy a year ago when its premise was first announced. In case you weren’t on Canadian twitter that week though, here’s the rundown of why people were upset.

                                                        Image of Lewis as Ford as seen on E! News 

In real life, it was not a male journalist that lead the way in breaking the story of Rob Ford’s tumultuous political career, it was Robyn Doolittle. When I first saw that Nina Dobrev was on the cast list, I thought she was playing the lead as Doolittle. But it turns out the film is instead following a fictional reporter played by Platt. Dobrev, along with Aladdin’s Mena Massoud, are playing political aids trying to clean up Ford’s scandals.

Doolittle tweeted about her disappointment at this, soon after both Platt and director/writer Ricky Tollman responded. Both defended the film and clarified that Run This Town is not a biopic, in fact, Tollman claims that Ford is a very small part of the film. Tollman says the focus of the dramedy will be on the struggling millennials played by Platt, Dobrev, and Massoud, just trying to make it at work.

Tollman actually based a lot of the story off his brother who worked as an anchor and news writer before leaving journalism. Both Tollman and Platt insisted that while Doolittle’s real story is worth telling, they are telling a fictional one and not attributing Doolittle's achievement to the fictional male journalist.

Tollman gave a defensive interview with The Globe and Mail the same publication Doolittle reported at while covering Ford’s scandals – back when the controversy first started. He worried that with all the Twitter outrage, the movie itself would get lost in it all. He was also very aware of the “inferiority complex” in Canadian film, “I don’t want to make movies just for my friends and family in Toronto. I want to make movies that are available and are wanted to be seen by audiences around the world.”

Tollman is free to tell whatever story he wants. And I’ll have to wait until a trailer and wide release date to really give any judgment on how the movie deals with Toronto, Ford, and whether it encroaches onto Doolittle’s story. But it’s disheartening that the perspective on the Ford story most audiences outside of Canada will see, leaves out the female journalist that lead the way. The weird cultural moment that was Ford’s time in office and Doolittle’s coverage is itself a great dramedy ripe for the taking, that more people outside of Canada should see.

The wait for this movie is honestly killing me, I’m excited and anxious to see the response to it this week at SXSW. But while there is this rare attention on Canada, one of our major cities, and its local politics - let's highlight Robyn Doolittle, the reporting she did, and continues to do. So, if Run This Town gets a wide release, I hope you all give Toronto a try. But also, if you want to know more about the actual Ford story, buy Doolittle’s book Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story.