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A Brave Warrior Of The Heart

Love, Scott is the true story of Scott Jones, a gay man who was left paralyzed after a homophobic attack…
 
Nobody, but nobody, wants to be the “gay man” in a newspaper headline when the sentence ends “left paralyzed in vicious New Glasgow attack.”
 
But that is the situation that musician Scott Jones found thrust upon him one October night back in 2013 when, out celebrating the opening of a friend’s new art studio, he was stabbed in the back, slashed in the throat and left for dead on a street outside a nightclub in Pictou County, Nova Scotia. The stabbing severed Jones’ spinal cord, leaving him a paraplegic. The attacker, who was 19 at the time, is currently serving a 10-year sentence after pleading guilty to attempted murder.
 
I have started with the horrible factual details of this crime—which conjure a grim and fear-inducing possibility for any LGBT person, even in this day and age—in order to more quickly direct your attention to Jones himself, a sparkling marvel of resilience and compassion. The subject of the documentary Love, Scott, which debuted this spring at BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival and which will screen at this year’s Inside Out film fest in Toronto, Jones does not follow the traditional victims’ script. He has already publicly forgiven his attacker, and in the documentary—a tender, poetic and life-affirming piece of work—he talks about wanting to open a conversation with him. These are the kinds of tendencies, whether instinctual or hard-won, which cause real change to happen in our world.
 
“I don’t want people to pity me or look at my disability as something to be pitied,” says Jones. He grew up in B.C. until his family moved to rural Nova Scotia when he was 10. “I’ve been picked on so much throughout my childhood and high school years, I was just always on guard.”
 
While the doc was still being made, Jones moved to Toronto and is currently finishing up a master’s in music education, which he’ll follow up with a Ph.D. Jones actually met filmmaker Laura Marie Wayne when they were both music students at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. They both studied piano and became close friends, staying up late baring their souls to each other. Their emotionally supportive and philosophical relationship would become key to Jones’ recovery and to enriching the documentary itself. “You can see in the film our ability to go deep really quickly with certain things,” says Jones.
 
Wayne flew to Jones’ side days after the attack, camera in hand. “It was a gut response,” Wayne tells me. “Some part of me just knew to bring my camera, even though, at that time, we didn’t know we were going to make this film. But I knew the camera was important. I knew there was an opportunity for some kind of justice through the camera. I also knew it would be a way for healing. Somehow, when we had the camera, he got to be the ultimate authority of the story.” Over the course of three and a half years, Wayne, who is now living in Costa Rica, spent time with Jones and his family, listening to him and being with him as he rebuilt his life.
 
“She slept in my bed,” laughs Jones. “It was a wonderful organic process that was an extension of our friendship. I think of it now with such fondness because Laura and this film allowed me to process some hard, painful emotions associated with this attack. I knew, even if it was painful, I would come out of it with a deeper understanding.” Ever the optimist, Jones also saw it as a way to spend more time with a friend he considers to be “a slippery fish, always slipping through my fingers.”
 
Although the documentary follows Jones’ very singular experiences, it’s structured as an essay by Wayne, which wasn’t the original plan. But by doing so, the filmmaker was able to tie Jones’ story to a larger one about the criminal justice system. The film is certainly more personal than political, but it’s critical of the reluctance to declare the crime a hate crime. Since 1996, sexual orientation has been on a list of categories where a judge can sentence more harshly if a crime has been motivated by hate towards a group. But it’s been invoked in only a handful of cases.
 
“It’s not only the court systems that are failing, it’s at the level of policing,” says Wayne. In Jones’ case, the question of homophobia just wasn’t important to the police. “What was important was that they had someone, they had a confession,” says Wayne. “This part about why he was targeted—they didn’t have the right questions. That wasn’t a priority for them.” Yet that larger question of motivation is the one that puts the onus for such crimes on a homophobic society, which must work collectively to cure itself, rather than merely on an individual’s spontaneous action. (For his part, at the sentencing, the attacker told Jones: “I’m sorry I put you in that chair. I don’t know why I did it. I’m sorry.”)
 
Music is obviously an enormously large part of Jones’ life, and of the documentary itself, which features a soundtrack by the Icelandic band Sigur Rós, as well as scenes of Jones working with the Halifax-based VOX choir. With a mission to eliminate homophobia and transphobia, the choir grew out of the Don’t Be Afraid campaign, which Jones founded not long after the attack.
 

Watching the choir sing a version of Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work,” it’s a real struggle not to tear up. During our chat, Wayne asks Jones to sing me a few lines of the song and he does so in a heartbeat: “I know you’ve got a little life in you yet / I know you’ve got a lot of strength left.” But it doesn’t make me want to cry. It makes me want to hear more.
 
The Inside Out LGBT Film Festival runs from May 24 to June 3. Check out www.insideout.ca after May 4 for screening times and tickets.
 

 
PAUL GALLANT is a Toronto-based writer and editor who writes about travel, innovation, city building, social issues (particularly LGBT issues) and business for a variety of national and international publications. He’s done time as lead editor at the loop magazine in Vancouver as well as Xtra and fab in Toronto.
 

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