Alex Siles didn’t have to look too far from home to find poignant stories to profile in The Frontliners – his newly released documentary celebrating the everyday heroes working through the COVID-19 crisis.
The Toronto Film School student simply turned to his neighbours, family members and even his own experience working part-time in a grocery store for inspiration.
“My whole neighbourhood is full of hardworking people who have worked through this entire thing – one couple owns a coffee shop, another neighbour works at Toronto Pearson (Airport), there’s also a pharmacist and a hospital worker,” said Siles, a fifth-term Film Production student who lives in Milton, 30 minutes west of Toronto, with his father, a delivery driver, and mother, who manages a pizzeria.
“I really hope this documentary gives people a clear idea of what these workers are dealing with…that they have worked their asses off making sure everyone has what they need to get through this,” he added.
“Because, as frontliners, we had the choice of either going to work or staying at home – but we, as warriors, are on the frontlines risking our lives, risking our health, to ensure everyone has everything they need.”
Siles’ seven-minute documentary – which he wrote, directed, shot, edited and audio mixed all on his own – was released today, Oct. 16, on his Instagram and YouTube channels, as well as on MoovieHub, a streaming service for independent filmmakers.
Each of the 10 or so subjects he interviewed for the documentary were asked about what it means to be a frontline worker, what they do, and how they perceive their jobs.
“I asked them to give their opinion and the inside scoop on what’s going through their minds – what they’re going through emotionally, what’s happening with their families, and their own take on what’s going on in the world right now,” Siles explained, noting that the film also touches on anti-masker movement.
Shot this summer when Milton was in Stage 3 of the provincial government’s re-opening plan, Siles said he hopes The Frontliners will be all the more poignant to viewers now that Ontario is beginning to tighten restrictions again as we enter the second wave of the pandemic.
“Everyone needs to come to the realization that, ‘Hey, this is where we’re at right now. We’re currently in the second wave and we need to understand that this is no joke.’ Because this is a serious problem and we need to fix it as soon as possible,” he said.
“I also want people to realize that it’s not just about COVID, but also about all the people who are affected by it – especially the essential workers. People have to realize they’re not just working because they want to work, they need to work because – risky or not – they have to provide for their families and pay the bills.”
Siles’ ultimate hope for The Frontliners is that it will reach as many essential workers as possible and make them feel as deeply appreciated as they truly are.
“I have to thank everyone who’s still working on the frontlines, because you’re pulling so much of the weight for all of us, and I can’t thank you enough for doing that,” he said.
“I want you to know that we support you through thick and thin.”
Watch The Frontliners here.