A scene from “Some People Have to Suffer,” a 1976 documentary movie that focuses on the sewage concerns of Bridgeview-area residents of Surrey. (Photo: National Film Board of Canada)

A scene from “Some People Have to Suffer,” a 1976 documentary movie that focuses on the sewage concerns of Bridgeview-area residents of Surrey. (Photo: National Film Board of Canada)


Film about filthy chapter of Surrey history now streaming on NFB.ca for free

Bill Vander Zalm and others in ‘Some People Have to Suffer,’ about Bridgeview’s sewage concerns

A documentary film about a filthy chapter in Surrey history is now available for all to see on the National Film Board of Canada’s website.

Made in 1976, Some People Have to Suffer was posted to nfb.ca on Friday (Feb. 12).

The 43-minute movie chronicles the mid-1970s efforts of Bridgeview-area residents to have a proper sewer system built in the area, because septic tanks kept overflowing into drainage ditches near their homes. Civic politicians balked, including then-mayor Bill Vander Zalm, in light of more industrial plans for the area, but the construction work eventually got done.

In Christopher Pinney’s film, Bridgeview residents demand answers from their councillors, with few results.

Notes a bio for the documentary: “When the film was shown at the Habitat conference in Vancouver, 1976, press coverage noted: ‘The Third World is merely twenty miles from the site of Habitat’” – in Surrey.

(Story continues below photo of Bill Vander Zalm as seen in Some People Have to Suffer).


The situation is also chronicled in Jean Walton’s recent book, Mudflat Dreaming (New Star Books).

“Surreyites deserve to know that little piece of the city’s history, and it’s so colourful, that movie,” Walton, a former resident of the area, told the Now-Leader in 2018, when the book published.

“It was a very unsanitary situation.”

Some People Have to Suffer was produced by the National Film Board as part of a Challenge for Change program to bring political concerns to light.

• RELATED STORY, from 2018: Dirty chapter of Surrey history detailed in book about Bridgeview’s sewage woes in ’70s.

Until now, the documentary could be purchased as a DVD from the NFB or, upon request, viewed on a computer at Surrey Archives in Cloverdale.

Work to digitize the film for public viewing on the website was done by Albert Ohayon, the film board’s curator of digital collections.


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