5 minutes with: Jim Byrnes – Metro US

5 minutes with: Jim Byrnes

In the motion picture Heart Of A Dragon (which opens today), three-time Juno Award winner Jim Byrnes plays Ivan, a jaded wire-service photographer assigned to cover Rick Hansen’s Man In Motion tour through China. Byrnes, a double amputee, performed at B.C. Place 25 years ago during Hansen’s return celebration in Vancouver. Byrnes chatted with Metro in Vancouver before jetting off to Europe to support his new album, Everywhere West.

Tell me about the movie?
People have to remember that it is not a biopic. This is two days of the journey. It is about a group of people coming together to look at some hard truths about the challenges we set up for ourselves and the challenges that lurk within ourselves.

What are your memories of Rick’s journey at the time?
I lived in the neighbourhood and was at Oakridge the day they left … that was just about all anybody heard from them until about a year later when these films started coming back from China and, holy cow, look at all the people in the streets. This is pretty cool.

What was it like to make a movie about someone you know personally?
There’s a great deal of responsibility that went along with this. You’re telling a story of someone you know. It’s one thing to try a story from the past, but when you really know somebody — it’s an incredible responsibility to Rick and Amanda and Lee and everybody involved.

Tell me about your role?
I’m a photojournalist, a stringer for Reuters or UPI, who is assigned to do this story. My immediate reaction is one of dismissal … you’ve sent me out here into the middle of nowhere for some nutcase in a wheelchair and his crazy friends. I’m the bad guy. The devil’s advocate … and in asking those questions of them, I make them look into themselves and ask, “Why are we doing this? What is the purpose?” If it were not for doubters, naysayers, dismissers, like the Ivan character, Rick wouldn’t have done it in the first place because people would be aware and would be sensitive. People with disabilities are often dismissed and marginalized. Rick’s story is a constant reminder that we’re all rockin’ in the same boat, baby.

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