Category Archives: Canadian history

Relive Canada’s Famous Battle With Rare, Colourized Footage When You ‘Return To Vimy’

This Remembrance Day in Canada marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. In the early morning hours of April 9, 1917, all four divisions of the Canadian Corps combined with the British XVII Corps to fight against three divisions of the German Sixth Army. The ensuing battle allowed the Allies to secure tactical ground for its eventual defeat of Germany in the Great War. The win at Vimy resulted in heavy losses for Canada: 3,598 soldiers were killed among 10,602 casualties.

Up to this point, many generations of Canadians have seen the images of the First and Second World Wars through black and white photographs and film. A recently-released short film, through a partnership between the Vimy Foundation and the National Film Board, attempts to reconnect Canadians both young and old to the Vimy Ridge Battle story in a unique and colourful way.

Written and produced by Denis McCready, Return to Vimy (2017) is a 9-minute short in which a young Canadian woman visits the Vimy Ridge Memorial in order to find make a charcoal imprint of her great-grandfather’s name. She brings with her to the monument her grandfather’s notebook of diary writings and sketches. The sketches come to life and, with never seen before NFB film archive colorized for the first time, the woman’s grandfather begins to paint a more personal and detailed picture of life in the trenches during the days leading up to the infamous battle. Watch the entire film below:

“Many Canadians today see the First World War through a series of faded black-and-white photos and grainy video footage, disconnected from their modern reality,” said Jeremy Diamond, Executive Director of the Vimy Foundation. “Colourizing these events brings a new focus to our understanding and appreciation of Canada’s giant event during the First World War.

Claude Joli-Coeur, Government Film Commissioner and NFB Chairperson also said, “Return to Vimy combines innovative storytelling and advancements in digital colourization to breathe new life into archival materials and bring this pivotal moment in Canadian history back to life for audiences of all ages. As Canada’s public producer, we’ve been telling our country’s stories and sharing our history since 1939; during times of peace as well as on the frontlines when Canada has been in combat.”

 

Short Film Fan Review

The spoken word of the diary entries presents the Battle of Vimy Ridge in a more personal and intimate light. The colourization of the old film footage was particularly well done and it adds a new dimension and life to these images of long ago. In fact, the quality of the colour and the restored film makes it look like as if the battle took place in more modern times. The decision to colourize has the potential to cause a certain “cool factor” among those who may consider old black and white imagery as too old fashioned or dull. Altogether, Return to Vimy could very well be instrumental in reigniting an interest among today’s generation of Canadians to learn more about this important part of Canadian history.

Take the time to watch Return to Vimy on this Remembrance Day and let’s pay tribute to those who gave their lives so that we could live our lives in freedom and in peace.

 

 

 

 

 

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‘The Frozen Goose’ (2016) Explores War’s Effect On Rural Canadian Family

Turn to any news source these days, whether it is an app on your smartphone, your television or radio, or even a printed newspaper, grim stories of world war and conflict emanate from them all. Unfortunately, war and conflict are still a part of our daily lives, despite any past efforts or platitudes made to stop them. For example, World War I was touted to be the ‘war to end all wars’ when it occurred between 1914 and 1918. But, as history shows, World War II followed from 1939 until 1945 with countless other conflicts taking place since then.

It is no secret that wars take their toll on people’s lives. Soldiers in the field as well as relatives back home suffer the consequences of the brutalities of war. For soldiers returning home from a conflict, the pain and suffering does not end. In fact, their struggles continue as they try to reintegrate back into regular society. Margaret Lindsay Holton’s short film The Frozen Goose takes a look at one particular family’s attempt at dealing with post-war trauma.

In this 25-minute short, Tom (John Fort) returns to Canada after serving at Vimy Ridge with his friend (David C. MacLean). After his friend dies in battle, Tom promises to take care of his friend’s wife, Helen (Leslie Grey), and his two children, Bella and Charlie (Hannah Ralph and Cameron Brindle). While Tom tries to find his place within the family and in life, Bella and Charlie take matters into their own hands.

The Frozen Goose will be making its Canadian premiere at the Art Gallery of Burlington at 3 p.m. on September 11th. But before this first public screening, Short Film Fan reached out to Lindsay for some of her thoughts about the short, including the challenges experienced while making it and what she hopes the audience will take away from it.

 

Short Film Fan:  What motivated you to make The Frozen Goose?

Margaret Lindsay Holton: I had been shooting short (under 15 minute) documentaries of interesting characters and locations for the past 5 years for local news outlets, and decided I wanted to step up my game and attempt a ‘scripted’ work. To that end, and as I am self-taught, I wanted to be sure I had a ‘good story’ out-of-the-gate.TFG mlh POSTER

My short story, ‘The Frozen Goose’, was first printed as the last story in a well-received WWI anthology in 2014 called ‘ENGRAVED: Canadian Short Stories of World War One’, published by Seraphim Books. This is a very good place to be – the ‘last story’ in any collection is proof positive that it is a ‘good story’; otherwise the editor wouldn’t have placed it there.

On the strength of that, I then scripted The Frozen Goose. After several readers had read the story, and some small adjustments, it was ‘locked’ as a screenplay in August of 2015.  I knew I was ready.

SFF: Where was The Frozen Goose filmed, mainly?

MLH: The film was shot entirely in Southern Ontario, around the Golden Horseshoe region, (comprising Hamilton, Burlington, Milton and a ‘heritage village’, Westfield, in Rockton, Ontario.)

SFF: What were some of the challenges you faced with making this film?

MLH: The most challenging was the capriciousness of the weather. Ten days before the scheduled shoot there was no snow on the ground. There was no ice on the chosen lake. I was frantically considering alternatives:  shooting on fake snow at a nearby ski resort or using large green screens or postponing the shoot altogether.

But luckily, and literally overnight with plummeting temperatures, it snowed for three days straight. It also snowed, remarkably ‘on cue’, while we were shooting our final scenes. Unfortunately, it was not quite cold enough for the lake to freeze up properly given such a short time frame. So, for safety reasons, I opted for an available shallow frozen pond for the last day. We did manage it, but just!

The second challenge was the budget. In retrospect, it was a pretty ambitious period film, done on a mini-micro budget of $11,000.  If I was to remake this work, I’d definitely start with more cash on hand. But, in some respects, I wouldn’t have known that until I tried it. Hindsight is 20/20.

SFF: The recruitment posters definitely gave the film the authentic period look. Where did you find them?

MLH: I researched online, found a number of ‘public domain’ images from the Public Archives of Canada, downloaded them, tweaked them to the right size and dpi, and then printed out 10 for the interior store set. They look ‘new’ and authentic to the period because they were, in fact, freshly printed.  Here’s an example: http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/en/explore/online/posters/big/big_31_war_poster.aspx

SFF: Do you feel that rescue near the end was what Tom needed to finally affirm his place in the family?

MLH: Yes. It was my intent from the onset to have him as a somewhat ambiguous character with audience unsure whether to like or loathe him. (i.e. Did Helen’s husband actually take a bullet so that he could live?) After the war, he was damaged and broken; tormented and locked in a kind of emotional exile. He was suffering a form of PTSD, or, ‘shell shock’ (as it was called back then.) He was trying to adjust, fit in and help. But, he was failing on all fronts.

His redemption comes at the very end when he steps in to save the children. We get a glimmer of the better man that he really is. It is slowly understood that Helen’s hero-husband chose him to look after the family for very good reason. There is hope for all, after all.

SFF: What messages or lessons would you like the audience to take away from The Frozen Goose?

MLH: Initially, warfare may seem ‘glorious’ and ‘heroic’; even fun for some. But, the brutal reality is this: war shatters humanity on every level.

It doesn’t matter if it is World War I, II, or III. Real war – not Hollywood make-believe war, but REAL war that intends to kill others or be killed in the killing – demands far too great a sacrifice from us all. Loved ones die and, really, for what purpose? A momentary ‘killer high’? To just ‘win’? For whose greater glory? Bragging rights? Nationalism? Ideology? A flag? A religion? Territory or resource securement?

Surely, at this point in our combined evolution, we, as one species on this planet, can and should know how to live better amongst ourselves.

War also clearly has reverberating repercussions that extend far beyond the immediacy of a ‘battle field’. In this instance, even though only one of the characters of this story was at the ‘front line’, every character has been damaged. Grief, fear, anger, uncertainty and all the torments of unsettled minds churn in the tail-winds of war.

Peace – true peace of mind and spirit – can only be achieved when the ferocious ‘wolves of war’, real and imagined, are banished forever from our hearts and our minds.

This is not a fairy tale fantasy. It is a choice we can all make about living and life.

 

Short Film Fan Review: The Frozen Goose is definitely a timely film, even though it was set after World War I. Today’s Canadian soldiers returning home from conflicts in Afghanistan face similar issues with PTSD, as recent news reports have uncovered. It is also timely in that April 2017 will mark 100 years since the Battle of Vimy Ridge took place. The Frozen Goose would be perfect to use in educating future audiences about PTSD issues as well as the Vimy Ridge conflict itself. Finally, as previously mentioned, the posters in the shop short were an excellent addition for a post-war look and feel.

If you would like to attend the premiere of The Frozen Goose, click on this link to order your tickets: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/the-frozen-goose-canadian-premiere-at-art-gallery-of-burlington-ontario-tickets-26037813802

For more information about film and about Lindsay, visit her website at http://mlhproductions.weebly.com/

You can also follow The Frozen Goose on Twitter and Facebook.

All the best to Lindsay and everyone else involved in The Frozen Goose for a successful premiere on September 11!

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Question: Who Would You Like To See In A Canadian Short Film?

The gears at Short Film Fan were turning lately.

With the recent blockbuster superhero movie releases of ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ earlier this year and ‘Captain America: Civil War’ last month, an idea came up.

Which Canadian character, real or imagined, would you like to see in a Canadian short?

One Canadian comic book character that first came to mind was Captain Canuck. He came on the comic scene in 1975 through the creative juices of Ron Leishman and Richard Comely.  What kind of adventures could he get up to in a short film? From further research, other Canadian comic book characters that have graced magazine stands in the past include Northguard and Fleur de Lys. It would be interesting to see if the adventures of these characters could be translated into a short film form.

What about real-life Canadian characters from history? Would it be possible to take one moment from their lives and turn it into a short film? Maybe Sir William Stephenson, the man who would be the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s James Bond, would be an interesting feature in a short. Could you imagine a Canadian James Bond in a 10-minute short film?

Would all of these ideas work? That would probably depend on a few factors. Financial resources could be one of them. Casting the right actors could be another. But, who knows? Maybe one day these ideas and others will come to life in a Canadian short.

Do you have any ideas of your own? Write your comments below or share a post on Short Film Fan’s Facebook and Google+ pages.

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