SHUT HIM DOWN: The Rise of Jordan Peterson
Directed by Patricia Marcoccia
Point-of-view documentary reveals an intimate behind-the-scenes perspective on
controversial University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson
SHUT HIM DOWN: The Rise of Jordan Peterson, the directorial debut of Patricia Marcoccia, is a timely one-hour point-of-view documentary film focusing on University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson’s controversial rise to fame from an unprecedented behind-the-scenes perspective. The film documents over 110 hours of vérité, fly-on-the-wall moments with Peterson, his family, activists, students and professors, ranging from staunch supporters of Peterson to those who vehemently oppose him.
In fall 2016, Peterson published a video entitled “Professor Against Political Correctness,” thrusting him into the national spotlight for his criticisms of Canadian human rights legislation Bill C-16. In the video, Peterson argued that the law crosses a dangerous line with regards to freedom of expression because it enforces the use of alternate gender pronouns for persons who identify as a gender outside of male or female.
Peterson’s views were immediately described as transphobic and dangerous by people like A.W. Peet, a self-described non-binary University of Toronto physics professor. As Dr. Peet states in the film, “Bill C-16 is not about cisgender people, it’s about protections for transgendered people.”
Director Marcoccia, who was shooting another film about Peterson when the controversy ignited, quite literally stumbled into one of the biggest debates in Canada.
“I didn’t look for this story; it came to me,” explains Marcoccia. “It became clear that I needed to put my initial project on hold and focus on trying to make sense of this unexpected, tense and complex situation. It’s been strange to witness such a high-profile story unfold.”
As the debate ensued, media attention shifted from questions like “Is Peterson right or wrong about this debate,” to “who is this world-renowned professor and are his ideas dangerous?”
“Capturing a story about such a polarizing issue presented the challenge of alienating people no matter which way I framed the situation,” adds Marcoccia. “People immediately wonder what perspective the documentary is coming from. Is it for Peterson’s views or is it for transgender rights? I found a reality in between these two worldviews while making this film.”
“As a documentary filmmaker, my goal wasn’t to push out a message,” continues Marcoccia, “But it was important that I deeply understood what was at stake for people coming at this from different vantage points: non-binary people; activists; professors; students, and to create a film that enabled each side to voice itself on its own terms.”
Awareness of Peterson grew while the film was being made. He now claims over 1.5 million YouTube subscribers and global book sales of more than 2.5 million copies for his most recent book.
SHUT HIM DOWN was produced with the participation of CBC, The Canada Media Fund and the Rogers Documentary Fund.
About Holding Space Films
Holding Space Films is a Toronto-based production company founded by filmmaker Patricia Marcoccia in 2017. At the heart of Patricia’s process as a storyteller lies the concept of – “Holding Space” – to listen deeply and create a container for people’s experiences while exploring life’s deep questions. The company’s premiere film, Shut Him Down: The Rise of Jordan Peterson artfully explores one of the most heated issues in recent Canadian history.