Hot Docs 2017: The Quiet Zone

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I’m not sure you can ever know what it feels like in someone else’s skin. You can identify with certain issues, headaches, a stubbed toe, a bumped funny bone, but you can’t rate someone else’s experience with pain. If you had to live with numerous kinds of pain, and someone told you there was a place where you could live free of pain, wouldn’t you move heaven and earth to get there? Thankfully for people who are hyper-sensitive to electrical fields (from cell towers and wi-fi to power lines and electronics), that place exists.

In a remote part of West Virginia, where a huge radio telescope sees the cosmos thanks to the minimal background signals from Earth, the National Radio Quiet Zone sits. This might sound like a terrible place to live, minimal internet access, very few people, lots of woods, but to the growing number of residents that struggle with electrical sensitivity, it’s paradise.

There’s an element of this movie, directed by Elisa Gonzalez and Daniel Froidevaux, that makes you wonder if these are the people in the tin foil hats, afraid of the government or aliens. Thankfully, by showing the real people who live there, we get to know a little bit of what they struggled with before coming to the Quiet Zone. We see their happiness at not having to live under a radio-signal blocking tarp just to survive.

The Quiet Zone lives up to its name, demonstrating the importance of this refuge with subtle shots of the various gorgeous vistas these people experience. I’d really like to have known more about how this place itself came to be, or are there more areas like it around the world. We need to be ready to empathize with people whose pain we might not understand.

Screens:
Wednesday, May 3, 6:30 PM, Scotiabank
Friday, May 5, 1:15 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Saturday, May 6, 10:30 AM, TIFF Bell Lightbox

Tickets can be purchased at the Hot Docs website.