CanDocs – Fall 2004

Quick look at some documentaries being made across Canada

20 mins read

– Katherine Dodds


“It was going to be a look at how sex education has changed over the last 50 years,” says producer Trish Williams about Secrets, the one-hour doc for CBC on which she is currently in production. “We were looking for revolutionary changes, but we didn’t find them.” Instead what she found was a lack of well-delivered knowledge to young people about their sexuality. “Talking to teenagers became more interesting,” says Williams. Secrets focuses on four teens in the process of becoming sexually active.

It’s a hyper-sexualized media environment. “What influences them to be safe and healthy or unsafe?” Williams asks. “It seems that there is more and more talk about sex; explicit sex on television, actual enactments of sex, but there is not equal airtime representing safe sex or sexual health or things to consider if you are deciding to become sexually active.” The filmmakers are also working on a video and online survey component to put the experiences of their subjects into a wider context of teen behaviour.

Produced by Make Believe Media. Producers Lynn Booth and Trish Williams. Director Arlene Ami. Writer Trish Williams. In production with CBC Passionate Eye. Delivery in March 2005.

Girls Don’t Fight

Girls Don’t Fight, takes a jab at age-old stereotypes as it wrestles with the seemingly unseemly world of women in aggressive sports, hitherto only the terrain of the he-man. This was the first year that women could compete in the Olympics in wrestling. There is still no option for Olympic medals in boxing for women.

Producer/Writer Ken Craw sees a dramatic increase in the number of women participating in these combative sports. He is fascinated by the tale of Lyndsay Belisle, a Canadian wrestler who headed to Athens, vying for gold. On this side of the Ocean, another Canadian athlete who caught his attention is Jessica Rakoczy, who heads to Las Vegas to try for the Light Weight Champion Belt in boxing. Jessica’s plight illuminates the social issues of the film. Says Craw: “She loves boxing and wants to be looked upon as a legitimate boxer—but a woman in this sport gets judged on her looks as much as her boxing skills.” And, well, the championship match is in Las Vegas.

Produced by Infinity Films. Producers Shel Piercy and Ken Craw. Writer Ken Craw. Director Jill Sharpe. In production for CTV as a Bell Documentary. Delivery planned for Spring 2005.

The Fires That Burn

“She found what she was looking for—it just shines out of her when she talks about it!” Director Hilary Pryor is speaking of Sister Elaine MacInnes, whose (com)passionate path is explored in The Fires That Burn,—a one-hour documentary for Vision Television. Trained at Juilliard as a professional musician, not yet “Sister” Elaine sought more. After dabbling in secular philosophy she became a Roman Catholic nun. And then also a master (Roshi) in Zen meditation, a skill she took to the prisons as an unusual form of activism. Says Pryor “The practice of these two religions is what propelled her into activism.”

The documentary traces Sister Elaine’s path from her days as a body shield during civil war in the Philippines, to her present-day campaign to get meditation teachers into prisons across Canada.

Producers Hilary Pryor and Garfield Lindsay Miller. Associate Producer: Sarah King. Directed by Hilary Pryor. Produced by The May Street Group for Vision TV with the assistance of the CTF.


“I want to be the Michael Moore of stuttering!” quips Director John Paskievich. But seriously, Unspeakable, his one-hour documentary tackles a media taboo—seeing and hearing stutterers—and more importantly hearing what they have to say. “I stutter,” says Paskievich, who became motivated to make this film after doing interviews for his previous film. “I spooked a lot of radio and TV people. Stuttering isn’t allowed in the media.” He points out that gay people, people in wheelchairs and even those with strong accents are all represented on radio and TV these days.

“Stuttering is verboten, it’s shameful. I want to make my contribution to change that a little. This film is a call for liberation, not from stuttering, but the ignorance and stigma that surrounds it.” Paskievich is director, writer and host of the hour-long doc, which will include interviews with stutterers of all ages.

Producer Joe MacDonald. Executive producer Graydon McRea. Director/Writer John Paskievich. An NFB Winnipeg Production in Association with CBC Witness.

– Kalli Paakspuu

The Last of their Kind

An aging generation of men in the Newfoundland outports is the last with the skills to build the traditional wooden boats. These men are not passing on their skills to their sons who are, as one father tells it, ‘away learning something useful.’ The Last of their Kind features a father-to-son relationship that will be gone forever.

Peter Shepherd in partnership with the Newfoundland outport of Twillingate is looking for funding partners for this Ontario/Atlantic Co-production.

Diamonds from Dust

A happy bride gazes in delight as her diamond ring sparkles in the light. Little does she realize the arduous journey the diamond has traveled to get to its destination. It is a voyage that begins in a place far different and follows a year-long journey through “the pipeline,” a mysterious, complex network spanning five continents.

Producer: Robert Lang for Kensington Communications. Diamonds from Dust is in development with Lang and writer/director Nisha Pahuja.

Patria o Muerte (Fatherland or Death)

Forty-five years after Fidel Castro and his rebel forces claimed Havana and the island of Cuba, this film will tell the stories of three men: a peasant farmer in the Sierra Maestra mountains who praises Castro for saving his farm; a poor man with a broken fridge that longs for privacy through cracked wall; and a rich entrepreneur in the high-end district of Havana.

Shane Phillip’s Patria o Muerteis in development with Movieola Television.

Samba North: A Celebration of Rick Lazar and the Samba Squad

This one-hour documentary follows the unlikely success story of Toronto’s Samba Squad, a multicultural, Brazilian-styled drum band founded by Rick Lazar. Samba North features interviews with Squad members, behind-the-scenes performers and band rehearsals.

In development with producers Jason Charters and Liam Romalis of Riddle Films Inc. and Vision TV.

Michael Ignatieff and the Burden of Identity

Through interviews with peers, friends and family, this documentary will reflect the breadth of Michael Ignatieff’s life as writer, political journalist, scholar, and high-level political advisor. Michael Ignatieff and the Burden of Identity is the story of a writer and thinker with a poet’s temperament, a humanitarian’s conscience and a historian’s eye for rigorous reflection.

Producers: Liam Romalis and Jason Charters of Riddle Films. Currently in development.

She’s Only Six

She’s Only Six is a powerful and courageous journey to healing and hope through the despair and chaos caused by sexual abuse and the affects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The filmmakers use historical footage, recreations and new footage to tell the story.

Co-producers and directors: Cindy Banks and Elizabeth Etue. Funding from CBC Newsworld, Discovery and RDI.

Documentary Guru: My Father James Beveridge

A personal documentary about groundbreaking NFB and indie doc filmmaker James Beveridge, Documentary Guru is written from the perspective of his daughter.

Produced by Peter Raymont of White Pine Pictures with Nina Beveridge of Bee Vision. Financial participation by TVO, BRAVO! SCN, The Knowledge Network, Canadian Learning Television and the National Film Board.

The West Wind

Roy MacGregor’s highly acclaimed novel Canoe Lake follows a woman in search of her parents. She discovers that her father may be the Canadian painter, Tom Thomson.

Producers Lindalee Tracey of Magnolia Movies and Peter Raymont of White Pine Pictures are in development with McGregor on a feature film screenplay adaptation of his novel, to be called The West Wind. Financial participation: Telefilm Canada, Harold Greenberg Fund.

Carnivale: History of the Traveling Show

Following the route of jugglers, acrobats, poets, minstrels, animal trainers and snake oil salesmen from Medieval Europe to modern North America, Carnivale will celebrate and send up the high and low forms of the traveling show. It will be a rollicking adventure documentary into the exuberance of the traveling show and its evolution through history.

Producer: Lindalee Tracey of Magnolia Movies. Currently in development.

– Laura Turek

AIDS in Africa

Director/Producer Catherine Mullins returned to Quebec this summer, exhausted from her 26 days in Zambia where she shot a documentary about children orphaned by AIDS. The sad reality is that tens of thousands of people live in compounds or slum areas around Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. Another reality is that too many adults are dying of AIDS in that country and as a consequence, the children are left to fend for themselves. “Not even the relatives want to take them in. They can’t afford to,” says Mullins. During the shoot the crew took one of their families of orphans on a road trip to a small village where they found some of their relatives willing to take them in. “At least for them, it was a happy ending. We have what I hope will be a poignant character-driven story, not just an essay on AIDS in Africa. I chose kids that were unusually outspoken by African standards. We stayed with our kids so we could really get to know them. But we will expand into bigger issues through supporting characters, including Steven Lewis in Canada.” Shot in HD by Alberto Feio, the documentary will be edited by Barbara Brown.

Produced by Green Lion Productions. Funders include SODEC, CIDA, CIFVF, Rogers Documentary Fund, Telefilm (development investment) Tele Quebec, Knowledge Network, Alberta Television, SCN, and HDNet (US). Delivery is planned for mid-November 2004.

Basement Tapes

While the record industry attempts to control your hard drive, musicians and activists are fighting for the freedom to create. Picking up after the death of Napster, Basement Tapes is a documentary film about the growing battle for the future of music. “Everyone loves music and has some sort of connection to it,” says Director Brett Gaylor who won the New Player’s Pitch and the Audience Choice Award this year at Banff. “The music industry has always tried to control consumption all the way back to the days of hand written sheet music. In those days, the price of these sheets was out of reach for common citizens. But the printing press changed all that as “pirates” made music available to regular people to play in their own homes.”

“I got my first computer when I was 12, says Gaylor, “My sense of creativity is linked to a computer. Older people are happy to just sit in front of the TV and consume. Younger people say, ‘no way, we want to create and express ourselves.’ The question we must ask: is music an art that helps define our changing world, or it is a commodity to be hoarded for the benefit of shareholders?” Having worked on the project for three years, Gaylor’s initial interviews for Basement Tapes have already been shot with Lawrence Lessig, and the experimental rock band Negativland. Because of the very international issue of the film the production will most likely take the team to the United States, Europe and maybe Asia. “I would love to shoot on the Internet, but obviously this is not possible…” laments Gaylor.

Produced by Daniel Cross and Mila Aung-Thwin of EyeSteelFilm. Financial support from SODEC, Canada Council, Quebec Arts Council and Main film. Production is planned for the Fall 2004.

– Steven James May

The Life And Times Of Super 8

“People used it (Super 8) extensively in the 1970s, for trips to Disneyland and family vacations, but when video cameras came about in the 80s it almost died,” notes film director and Super 8 enthusiast Chris Cuthbertson. Thanks in part to the proliferation of the Internet in the late 90’s, a new lease on life has been given to this cherished format. “At a moment’s notice, there’s a whole community of people scanning manuals for old cameras found at yard sales and flea markets.”

Subjects for the documentary include Super Duper 8 format users Rick Palidwor and Mitch Perkins, John Porter, Splice This! Festival Founder Laura Cowell, Pro8mm’s Phil Vigeant, and “Super 8 guru” Lenny Lipton. Fresh off demo shoots at Toronto’s Splice This! Super 8 Film Festival and the Pro8mm Super 8 facility in Burbank, California, the filmmakers plan to apply for production funds this fall.

Halifax-based Afterdark Productions Inc. is in the early stages of development on The Life and Times of Super 8. The project is being championed by Afterdark’s Director Chris Cuthbertson, DOP Drew Hagen and Editor Michael Mason. IFC has expressed interest in the project, and the filmmakers plan to shoot the hour-long documentary early in 2005 with locations across Canada, the United States and Norway. As far as shooting format goes, the team intends to use a mix of digital video and, you guessed it, Super 8.

Sun In My Hands

When Director/Producer Bill Coultas, of St. John’s Springwater Productions Inc., first viewed the work of painter Jean Claude Roy, his reaction was one of “breathless admiration. Each new painting left me speechless. He had a similar effecton other(s). People who had never considered buying an original painting before now, had to have one of Jean Claude’s paintings.”

Since arriving in Newfoundland in 1966 from his native France, complete with “long hair and a pink trench coat,” Roy’s oil paintings of Newfoundland landscapes and small communities has garnered a regional following in Newfoundland and France. Coultas’ appreciation for the work of Royhas resulted in plans for Sun in My Hands (working title), a half-hour documentary on the painter’s life. Somewhat fortuitously, Jean Claude’s work has recently received greater exposure in the United States after a gallery and hotel owner from Florida saw his work while on a hunting trip in Newfoundland. A subsequent exhibit in Orlando sold out, with future exhibits planned for Savannah, Georgia and Colorado.

The doc is currently in the development/early production stage. Preliminary scouting has taken place in France. Shooting is planned in France, St.Pierre, Conche, Newfoundland, Halifax and Florida.

Regional CBC Atlantic has backed development along with the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation. A corporate sponsor has also come on board in France.

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