There’s a buffer zone of agricultural and rural land that sits between the outer edge of urban development and the protected Greenbelt. The rural buffer zone has been designated to accommodate the next phase of urban expansion and has become known as the Whitebelt.
Everything in the Whitebelt — cropland, country roads, farms, modest homes and roadside businesses — looks and feels temporary. In a few years there will be a monumental upheaval that will transform the landscape into expressways, housing developments and industrial parks.
The film follows women and men whose lives are centred in and around the Whitebelt in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). They have strong family, cultural, financial and emotional ties to the changing geographic space. They are farmers, garden centre owners, construction workers, cafe owners, agri-tourism operators, teachers, retirees, artists and entrepreneurs. They are new Canadians, indigenous Canadians and multi-generation descendants of European settlers telling their stories in their own voices of life in a transitional time and place.
The film reflects similar urban growth circumstances in some of the world’s fastest growing cities, many with their own protected Greenbelts and development-intense Whitebelts.
By spending time with this diverse group of people in the Whitebelt, the film sets out to examine a gigantic and nebulous social metamorphosis — the transformation from a rural-based society to an urban one. It may be the most significant social and cultural change in the last half century. The Whitebelt is the frontline in a slow transition from rural to urban yet is something that's easily overlooked.
The film is not about land development and planning issues. It isn’t investigative journalism or activism. The film isn’t for or against urbanization. It's not sentimental about rural life. The filmmakers are neutral. There are no heroes or villains.
GREENFIELD WHITEBELT is an art project, like visual poetry. It follows the experiences of people in an observational documentary style as events unfold. It's a sociological, lyrical essay from the thirty-thousand foot level. The filmmaker's goal is simply to capture a unique part of the twenty-first century experience that's happening in many parts of the world but has rarely been documented.