CanDocs – Winter 2004

22 mins read

— Katherine Dodds

Adam’s Eyes

Adam is 12-year-old boy. His mother is a filmmaker. Adam also has a form of autism known as Asperger’s Syndrome. Director/Producer and mother Marianne Kaplan decided to make a film during Adam’s last year in elementary school. She wants to not only reveal the inner world of autism but also the world of a parent struggling to raise an autistic child. Adam’s Eyes is a one-hour process documentary. Filming will end June 20, on Adam’s last day in grade seven, and the story arc will hang on the pivotal decisions about the future that their family faces at that crossroad.

Says Kaplan: “It’s my story as well as his story. One of the things the film is about is persuading Adam to be filmed! It has been both exhausting and exhilarating.” She stresses that she is not interested in glossing over the problems and imperfections in her own parenting, adding that life with Adam is “an exaggerated form of a normal family life. It’s very intense.” When the film is complete, Marianne and Adam will present it together.

An MSK Productions Inc. Producer/Director Marianne Kaplan. Broadcasters on board are CBC Newsworld, Discovery Health Canada and Knowledge Network, with funding from the Canadian Television Fund, CWIP, CIFVF, Rogers Cable Network Fund and B.C. Film.

My Fabulous Gay Wedding

This series of six one-hour shows explores the fairy tale wedding. But this time the fairy is, well…pardon the pun! Hosted by “wedding fairy” Scott Thompson (formerly of Kids In The Hall) the series really does produce weddings, not just television. Says Producer Trevor Hodgson: “It started off as more of an actual documentary concept, to explore gay weddings in Canada. But it morphed from straight-up documentary to the opposite side of the spectrum: a format driven reality series.”

He adds: “Broadcasters want you to ensure high stakes and a lots of drama. There is no problem delivering this when you are producing a real wedding, in two weeks, with real people and all the real wedding problems. People will assume we manipulated some situations, but we didn’t!”

Produced by Paperny Films. Producer: Trevor Hodgson. Director: Daniel Gelfant. 6 X 1 hour documentary series for Global Television in Canada & LOGO Network in the United States. Premiere broadcast is scheduled for the spring of 2005.

The Story of Bob

New Year’s Eve 1997: Bob McIntosh was killed when he went to check on a noisy house party in the BC town of Squamish. He was attacked by drunken teenagers and was dead within minutes. Ryan Aldridge was convicted of manslaughter and sent to jail for five years.

When Producer/Director Sue Ridout found out what Bob’s widow Katy Hutchison was up to now, she knew she had a film to make. “Katy knew right away that she was going to forgive her husband’s killer. She did not want to feed more anger, it was anger that killed him in the first place.” Katy now wants Ryan to join her on stage for The Story of Bob, a cautionary tale about reckless drinking she has developed as a presentation for high school students and parent groups.

But what is driving Katy? Says Ridout: “That is one of the central questions the one-hour documentary is trying to answer. I’ve always been attracted to psychological portraits of human beings, why they do what they do.”

Produced by Dreamfilm. Producer/Director: Sue Ridout. In development for CBC. Poised for spring production.

Sowing the Seeds

We live in a world where most people are pretty removed from how food happens. Co-director Charlotte Hewson’s homesteader family is different. They came from England 105 years ago and have run a seed farm in Elstow, Saskatchewan since the 1920s. But the story of seeds grows evermore scandalous. Sowing the Seeds is a half-hour documentary debut for Hewson and producer/co-director Chrissy Poulos.

“To be a farmer is not just to stick a seed into the ground. It’s an art. Farmers don’t get enough respect.” says producer/co-director Chrissy Poulos, “but today are they growing food or producing a product?” That’s what’s at stake in the sordid world of seeds where, according to Monsanto monopolies, saving seeds is forbidden and franchise propagation is the new business as usual. Interviews include Percy Schmeiser, The National Farmer Union and the Saskatchewan Farmers Directorate.

“This film is part of what is already happening within the farming movement. I’d like this film to be able to feed this movement,” says Poulos.

Produced by Patchwork Productions. Producer: Chrissy Poulos. Directors: Chrissy Poulos and Charlotte Hewson. Currently in development through the Canada Council for the Arts for the half-hour version. Production on 10 minute short funded by the National Film Board’s Filmmakers Assistance Program (FAP).

— Kalli Paakspuu

Was Justice Denied?

Was Justice Denied? is a riveting new series that investigates current cases of individuals who claim to have been wrongly convicted. The stakes are high as our investigators reconstruct each case from crime through trial to determine the truth and to find out whether justice was truly denied.

Producers: Robert Lang and Paul Jay of Kensington Communications. Writer: Michael Betcherman. Development funding from CBC and Telefilm.

Leaving Normal

A follow-up to the extraordinary Behind the Glass Door? Hannah’s Story, this new production follows Hannah Shepherd and her parents in their continual struggle to deal with autism. Hannah, now 13 and with a disarming sense of humour, is in Junior High School. The challenges for Hannah and her family continue, but her life and her spirit are no longer held wholly captive by this dreaded disorder.

*The Naked Archaeologist*

Featuring amateur archaeologist, enthusiast and multi-award winning investigative filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici, _The Naked Archaeologist_ is an irreverent, entertaining and eye-opening journey into the fascinating archaeology of the ancient world. Along the way, new discoveries are made, lost treasures revealed, and ancient mysteries uncovered.

Series Producer: Leslie Fruman. Executive Producer: Simcha Jacobovici. This 26 x 1/2 hour documentary series is currently in production. Broadcaster is VisionTV with funding provided by the CTF and Rogers Cable Network Fund.

The Naked Archaeologist

Featuring amateur archaeologist, enthusiast and multi-award winning investigative filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici, The Naked Archaeologist is an irreverent, entertaining and eye-opening journey into the fascinating archaeology of the ancient world. Along the way, new discoveries are made, lost treasures revealed, and ancient mysteries uncovered.

Series Producer: Leslie Fruman. Executive Producer: Simcha Jacobovici. This 26 × 1/2 hour documentary series is currently in production. Broadcaster is VisionTV with funding provided by the CTF and Rogers Cable Network Fund.

Natasha International

Natasha International tells the remarkable story of how one woman was trafficked, sold to a series of Turkish pimps, and ultimately saved. The film follows her story right through to the conviction and on-camera confession of one of her traffickers.

This one-hour investigative documentary is directed by Ric Esther Bienstock and produced by Bienstock and Felix Golubev. Executive Producer is Simcha Jacobovici. In production for CBC, Canal D and Channel 4 (UK) and funded with Rogers Documentary Fund (Core Funding), Telefilm and LFP.

Chernobyl: Glasnost, The Media and the Cold War

Presenting a very different perspective on the information business in the mass media age, Chernobyl will portray the struggles of Soviet era reporters in Russia and the Ukraine, reconstructing what was reported at the time of the accident. Most importantly, this hard-hitting doc will show what threats to the region and the world still lurk within the Radioactive Zone.

White Pines Productions. Producers Peter Raymont and Lindalee Tracey are researching and scripting Chernobyl: Glasnost, The Media And the Cold War On the other side of the Cold War.

Ballet Girls

A human drama of ambitions met and dreams dashed, Ballet Girls goes behind the scenes to follow nine girls on their quest to land the coveted role of Clara in Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker.

The series is a co-production between Merit Motion Pictures and the Emmy award-winning company Vonnie Von Helmolt Film with the participation of BRAVO!, the Canadian Television Fund, the CTF Licence Fee Program and the CANWEST Independent Production Fund. It’s intended to be a three one-hour documentary Christmas Special for Bravo!

— _Laura Turek_

The Jackie Washington Story

At 85, jazz musician and master storyteller Jackie Washington’s career has already spanned more than eight decades. Judging by his upcoming tour schedule, he has no intention of retiring anytime soon. One of Canada’s better kept secrets, Washington continues to thrill audiences from coast to coast with his incredible music and infectious energy. “A trip down memory lane with this respected Canadian artist is like a voyage back into musical history,” says director/producer Ari Cohen. “There is virtually no one that Jackie hasn’t played with or met—Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, you name them.”

Born in Hamilton, Washington is the third oldest of a family of 15 children, who were virtually all musically gifted. He is the only sibling left and despite failing health that has left him in a wheelchair and blind in one eye, he is still enthusiastic about performing. “Jackie continues to mesmerize audiences with his incredible style and his amazing stories. He has a repertory of over 1500 songs that he can play at the drop of a hat–and each one will make you melt,” says Cohen.

Produced by Diversus of Montreal. Broadcasters on-board include Bravo!, Knowledge and SCN. Production is currently underway with completion slated for spring 2005.

Blues Niger

What is the relationship between music and cultural tradition? This is what writer/director Erica Pomerance intends to find out in her latest project Blues Niger. “The idea came to me as I was travelling down the Niger River in Mali, on a shoot for my previous film DABLA! Excision that incorporated a lot of local music from the Diaspora cultures and those found along the Niger River,” says Pomerance. Perhaps unknown to some, the Niger River is the home to a great civilization as important and ancient as that of the Nile. It is also the source of many instruments and musical genres connected to jazz, blues, soul and even rap.

Blues Niger will follow three Diaspora musicians from Quebec as they travel back along former routes of the slave trade in the Niger River Valley in search of their musical and cultural roots. “I also want to tackle the issue of slavery in a different way, to show how culture is transmitted and transformed throughout history,” adds Pomerance.

In development with Amérimage Spectra. Funding provided by SODEC and CALQ. Producers are currently shopping for a broadcaster and if all goes well, production is planned for the end of 2005.

Once a Nazi…

It’s 1942. You’re 18, German, and have just been drafted into the Waffen SS. For that time and place, this is not out of the ordinary. Then one day at the Theresianstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia, you witness your commanding officer commit a heinous war crime. What do you do? Adalbert Lallier, who was that young soldier, chose to keep quiet. He eventually moved to Montreal and taught International Relations at Concordia University. But after 60 years of silence, the guilt of that day still weighed heavily on his conscience. He spoke up, resulting in the conviction of that same commanding officer, Julius Viel, in the last World War II war crime trial which took place in Ravensburg, Germany in 2000. The Germans disowned Lallier claiming that a real German would never have betrayed one of his own, and Concordia University relieved him of his teacher position because he was a former Nazi who had been involved in war crimes. Once a Nazi is the story of one person looking at the events that shaped his life and having the courage to live with his own actions and conscience,” says director/producer Frederic Bohbot.

Principle photography is almost complete but Bohbot is still looking for a broadcaster and financing to offset the high cost of period stock footage. Produced by Bunbury Productions with Evan Beloff as Executive Producer. Funding is provided by the National Film Board’s Filmmaker Assistance Program. (FAP)

— Steven James May

Keeping Up With Cathy Jones

Known for her hilarious characters on This Hour Has 22 Minutes, the documentary Keeping Up With Cathy Jones will cover the performer’s ongoing stage and television career that has already spanned over three decades. “She’s quick to spot our foibles, our faults and our foolishness” notes Doran. “What makes her really funny is her way of drawing us in so that we not only see ourselves more clearly, but we are delighted to mock and laugh at ourselves right along with her. “

From Cathy At 16, the CODCO plays, an early CBC sitcom (Up At Ours) and stage performances from her one woman shows Wedding In Texas, and Cathy Jones Gets Her Own TV Special, the documentary will also explore Cathy’s role as a lead actor in the feature film A Secret Nation.“We (will) follow Cathy from the supermarket to the studio, from press interviews to the stage, and also spend some quiet time with Cathy the mother, sister, lover and friend,” says Doran.

Producer Lynne Wilson and Writer/Director Barbara Doran, both of St John’s-based Morag Productions, are poised to commence pre-production on Keeping Up With Cathy Jones. Funding sources include CBC’s Life & Times Series, Canadian Television Fund EIP and LFP and the Newfoundland & Labrador Film Development Corporation. Shooting to commence in April, 2005.

Ciao Canada

Producer Lloyd Salomone is developing a documentary television series on the history of Italian Canadians. Ciao Canada will take a fascinating look at the Italian experience in Canada—the people who emigrated and were born here, the events that shaped their lives and the places they call home,” notes Salomone.

“The program will uncover and celebrate the people, the places and the events which helped to shape a unique Italian culture and identity within Canada. (It) will also examine the struggles which Italian Canadians have faced, in an effort to ‘fit in’ and make Canada a more vibrant, modern, democratic and racially tolerant society.”

Plans are set to produce four, one-hour chronological episodes, including Giovanni Coboto’s 1497 arrival in what would eventually be known as Eastern Canada, racial discrimination of Italian Canadians during the Great Depression, to the achievements of such notable Italian Canadians as hockey star Phil Esposito and singer Gino Vanelli.

Fredericton’s Molto Italiano Film Productions Inc., headed by Lloyd Salomone are producing Ciao Canada. It is currently in development with Telelatino Network in Toronto.

World At Your Fingertips

“I don’t think National Geographic or Discovery Canada are going to bite. Guess they just don’t have a sense of humour.” Halifax producer John Brett (Brett Films Ltd.) and partner John Siemens say they’ve finally done what many thought impossible. “The real problem for docs,” says Brett, “is the unpredictable, protracted, and unfocused nature of reality. It makes cost effective production impossible.”

Brett and Siemens’ travel-doc series World At Your Fingertips strives to “take the present trend in documentary and reality programming one step further, to its logical conclusion”.

“We’ve managed to completely rid the documentary of its crippling association with real, unmediated experience. And the cost savings are amazing.” Using finger puppets cut out of paper, the series will be shot “on a sheet of plywood in the kitchen” according to Brett. “We’ll save money…it’s too consuming to travel the world. Besides, people have seen all those places on TV already.”

“Critics will argue that World at Your Fingertips has taken things so far that it can no longer be considered a documentary. Who knows what reality is anyway. Everyone seems to have a different opinion about it.”

A Brett Films Ltd. Production. Producers John Brett and John Siemens have shot 6 episodes of World at Your Fingertipsand are currently shopping the series around for broadcaster interest.


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