Hampton — A film biography about one of Canada’s most famous human rights advocates is a box office flop. Straight Outta Hampton, a documentary about the life of John Peters Humphrey, failed to capture the imagination of the public with record low ticket sales. After getting more flack than the latest Fantastic Four flick, the Canadian production will likely be culled from theatres only 2 weeks after its opening.
The film starts out in Hampton in the early 1900s. Humphrey lost both of his parents to cancer as a child, and he subsequently lost an arm while playing with fire. He was accepted to Mount Allison University at age 15, and later transferred to McGill so he could be with his sister Ruth. Humphrey studied law at McGill, specializing in international law during his masters, and also taught at the university.
In 1946, he was appointed as the first Director of the UN Division of Human Rights, where he was a principal drafter of the world’s most translated document, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On Dec. 10, 1948, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the Declaration, dubbed by Eleanor Roosevelt as “the international Magna Carta of all humankind.”
“I really thought this film was a winner,” said writer and director Zachary Nickleback. “Humphrey led a remarkable life, and it all started right here in Hampton. I wanted this town to be known for more than being a Sussex ‘wannabe.’ I admit that maybe I should have left the ‘Hollywood embellishment’ out of the script.”
The film has been widely criticized for distorting Humphrey’s legacy. Instead of serving as a director of the International League for Human Rights and launching Amnesty International’s chapter in Canada, the film depicts Humphrey starting an anti-establishment group called Humanitarianz wit’ Attitude (H.W.A.). There is no mention of his campaigning for reparations for Canadian prisoners of war under Japanese captivity, but the film instead depicts him recording “diss tracks” regarding Bill 22, the Quebec Language Law. And instead of portraying him as a member of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, the biopic asserts he was known for his progressive, anti-misogynistic rap lyrics.
“I probably went too far,” conceded Nickleback, “but I wanted to represent Humphrey as a hardcore humanitarian, you know what I’m sayin’? He was a United Nations ‘gangsta,’ so to speak. Plus, I put this whole production on my credit cards and I really need it to at least break even. I can’t declare bankruptcy again or my mom will kill me. ”
-With files from Tony Sekulich