Sarah Berger Richardson was 11 when her parents took her to see the movie baby, about a charming piglet who skillfully avoids becoming the main course of Christmas dinner.
The story captivated her and sparked a lifelong interest in animal welfare and agriculture.
Two years ago, Berger Richardson was completing his thesis at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law, exploring the mosaic of regulations governing Canada’s agriculture and food industries.
She dared not imagine that her thesis of over 400 pages would one day be turned into a film, but she hoped that her research, based on multiple interviews with independent farmers who were struggling to get their produce to market, would find some value. one way or another a wider audience.
“The normal process for an academic (…) is to convert some chapters into articles to be published in a peer-reviewed journal and read by many experts in the field, but not on a large scale,” said Berger Richardson. , now assistant professor in the civil law section of the faculty.
Enter the faculty’s newly installed filmmaker-in-residence.
Étienne Trépanier worked for many years as a litigator at the Ministry of Justice, but has since traded his briefcase for a digital camera and a boom microphone.
An avid documentary maker, Trépanier used to take breaks from his legal career to travel and capture stories from around the world. His new post, funded in part by the Ministry of Justice, combines his two passions.
Trépanier’s work translates complex legal issues that affect the lives and livelihoods of Canadians into terms they can understand. His films are then broadcast on the faculty’s audiovisual platform, called Jurivision.
“People are living the consequences of these laws,” he said. “We start with good research, then find tools and approaches [that get to] the heart of the issue to be able to convey a simple and clear message. “
Trépanier and Berger Richardson have now teamed up to produce a documentary based on his research paper, titled The Right to Farm.
The Right to the Farm explores how certain food safety regulations can create barriers for small organic farmers wishing to sell their produce at farmer’s markets or on their own property – rules that “unnecessarily restricted their ability to earn a living. Berger said Richardson.
Working with a filmmaker who also happens to be a legal expert made the process a lot easier than it could have been otherwise, she said.
Berger Richardson said their goal is to break down barriers between universities and the general public, and they hope this will inspire other universities to create similar programs.
“I think we’re really coming out of the academic information age that’s sort of stuck behind payment walls,” she said. “I think we also have an obligation to share this information with taxpayers, with the citizens who help fund this research.”