I'm Just Here for the Riot: Vancouver documentary about the Stanley Cup riot debuts

Filmmakers Kat Jayme and Asia Youngman examine the violence of the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup riot and ensuing online shaming in their new film.

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The Stanley Cup riot left a dark stain on Vancouver’s reputation, one that hovers over the city like a spectre to this day, most recently with the city’s belated and tightly controlled watch party for this year’s playoffs.

It’s a blemish Kat Jayme and Asia Youngman, filmmakers from Vancouver, wanted to explore in depth and the resulting documentary will have its Canadian broadcast debut on TSN, at 5 p.m. on June 5.

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The documentary, I’m Just Here for the Riot, was turned down by every Canadian outlet they could think to pitch the story to, only to be snapped up by ESPN’s esteemed sports documentary series 30 for 30. The directors sifted through the enormous cache of documentation of the world’s first smartphone riot, which at the time triggered the largest police investigation of its kind, and the self-righteous online shaming that followed.

“We kind of felt like it was a tale of two riots,” Youngman said. “The riots people think of, but also the online riot that happened in the form of mob mentality — ‘let’s cancel these people, let’s shame these people.’

“What happened online was almost like what had happened on the streets.”

Asia Youngman
Asia Youngman, a Cree-Métis filmmaker from Vancouver, co-directed I’m Just Here for the Riot, which has its Canadian theatrical release on June 5. Youngman’s previous films include Lelum, This Ink Runs Deep, Hatha and N’xaxaitkw. Photo by ESPN

The two obtained a lot of footage from onlookers, scenes not publicly seen before, as well as the co-operation of a handful of rioters — some identified, some with their faces blurred — whose lives were permanently changed after criminal convictions.

“A lot of people were very hesitant about sharing their stories, they didn’t know who we were, if they could trust us,” Youngman said. “We never wanted to point fingers at anyone, just gain an understanding through a multitude of perspectives as to why this has happened and how these people got caught up in it.”

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There are interviews with Roberto Luongo, the Canucks goalie at the time; broadcasters Don Taylor and Ian Hanomansing; Karl Casselman, a cameraman for Global TV who had his gear ripped from his shoulder by the mob; Robert Gorcak, who created a place for people to post photos of rioters; experts in online shaming; and the Vancouver police chief at the time, Jim Chu.

“The world turned upside down,” Chu says. “At the end of the day, we all are capable of anarchy.”

It’s still jarring today to hear someone who knows they’re being recorded say, “The only thing that can make up for (the loss) is material goods and violence,” as the crowd behind him chants “Riot! Riot! Riot!”

When the directors first broached the idea of making the documentary, they thought, “How cool would it be to have this as a 30 for 30,” Youngman said.

Kat Jayme
Vancouver filmmaker Kat Jayme, co-director of I’m Just Here for the Riot, which will make its Canadian broadcast debut on June 5. Jayme has also directed two acclaimed documentaries about the Vancouver Grizzlies, Finding Big Country and The Grizzlie Truth. Photo by ESPN

“It’s such a dream come true,” added Jayme, who has also directed two documentaries about the Vancouver Grizzlies.

“I kind of laugh and say I can now retire as a filmmaker. Ever since film school I wanted to try for 30 for 30 and it seemed like such a far-fetched dream as a Canadian.”

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They’re proud the story is being told by two female BIPOC filmmakers in a sports-media landscape dominated by men.

The two hadn’t met until a dinner for Canadian directors at the 2018 Vancouver International Film Festival. They hit it off and a month later chatted about stories they’d like to tell.

“We felt like (the riot) was something that was never really explored in depth, that it was never given the perspective that maybe it deserved, especially from the people who were involved in the riots directly,” Youngman said.

“Of course there’s a lot of sensitivity around the story because it’s not a positive thing that’s happened in our city, but we really felt like in order to prevent it from happening again we needed to talk about it more.”

The documentary might also encourage some soul-searching among viewers.

“It’s easy to watch what happened and say, ‘That would never have been me,’” Jayme said.

The film takes an empathetic view toward the rioters interviewed, people who were in their late teens or early 20s.

“I was familiar with how the internet worked and how people can come together and target someone,” one convicted rioter says. “I just didn’t think it could happen to me.”

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Another young man, a professional cyclist at the time, was dropped by all his sponsors.

“To get a criminal record at 18, it stopped me from getting into medical school in Canada,” says another. “It’s still haunting me today.”

The film does end on a positive note – not a spoiler alert, but pencils have erasers for a reason.

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