REEL CANADA Blog : Tags : Dan Diamond

REEL CANADA at River East Collegiate

Reel Canada Emily Hunter Jack Blum Terri Cherniack

Above: RC's Winnipeg representative Terri Cherniack (left) and executive director Jack Blum (right) flank guest filmmaker and Eco-warrior Emily Hunter.


After something of a “soft opening” last week in Stonewall, we blew into Manitoba with a more robust event at River East Collegiate:  six films, six hundred kids.  Organized almost entirely by a couple of great teachers, Pat Chellack and Anita Kumar, the films were chosen along certain thematic lines – social justice, sustainability, global poverty.


This was because River East is a “UNESCO School”, which is something I didn’t know existed until I went there.  Apparently there are some 9,000 UNESCO schools in 180 countries around the world, from primary to high school, vocational and teachers colleges.  They are all especially dedicated to promoting peace, democracy, human rights, sustainable development, and intercultural learning.


Reel Canada Pat Chellack Anita Kumar

 Anita Kumar and Pat Chellack


Anita Kumar is relatively new at River East, but she’s been a UNESCO teacher from day one, at the middle school that preceded this posting and as an organizer of conferences and other extra-curricular projects.  She was eager to have REEL CANADA return to Winnipeg for a special conference that is happening there next December, involving teachers and students from across Canada, Israel and Germany.  (Really.)


River East partners with Free the Children and Habitat for Humanity, and, to name just one of its many initiatives, its students have raised $14,000 to build a school in Sierra Leone.


It was great to plug Canadian film into the mix. 


Reel Canada River East Collegiate


Social-issue docs like SHARKWATER, THE CORPORATION, SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL, and PROM NIGHT IN MISSISSIPPI made for great jumping-off points for discussions of sustainability, capitalism, genocide and racism.  Eco-warrior and REEL CANADA superstar Emily Hunter came in person to get the kids fired up about what they themselves could do to change the world for the better.  And Peter Raymont joined us via Skype to talk about the challenges of accompanying General Romeo Dallaire on his return to Rwanda ten years after the genocide shocked the world.


Equally exciting was to witness the creativity of these teachers as they got their students looking beneath the surface of films like THE ROCKET and MAMBO ITALIANO to explore the themes of social justice around which each of those films revolve.  For THE ROCKET they were helped by the Skype appearance of Dan Diamond, Canada’s foremost hockey authority, who speaks with such insight into the meaning of the Richard Riots of the 50’s.


All in all it was a perfect blend of film fun and serious purpose and we were pleased to support River East in its association with UNESCO.

REEL CANADA 3rd Annual Peel Cineplex Day

Reel Canada Emily Hunter

 Guest filmmaker and Eco-warrior Emily Hunter.


One of the interesting ways in which REEL CANADA introduces itself to a school board is by offering a board-wide event to which every school in a community can come, on a field trip. Usually these are held at theatres – and most frequently theatres provided by our Premiere Corporate Sponsor, Cineplex Entertainment.


In the Peel District, we’ve been putting on “Cineplex Days”, as we call them, for three years. In 2010, the inaugural Peel Cineplex day drew hundreds of high school students to the SilverCity in Mississauga. Last year, an equally large number of middle school kids attended a similar event. This year, we’re back to the high school group, this time at the SilverCity in Brampton (giving another community in the Peel District a chance to host).


Nadia Litz, a longtime supporter of our program, came out as a guest for the short film EVELYN: THE CUTEST EVIL DEAD GIRL, and Nadia was surprised when students mobbed her for her autograph. Nadia’s officially the latest inductee in the REEL CANADA heartthrobs hall of fame!


Nadia wasn’t the only short film guest that wowed the group from Peel. Comedians Adam and Dave, regulars on the “REEL CANADA circuit”, showed some of the short films from their Unreel Sports Series and took questions from a very excited crowd. REEL CANADA veterans Emily Hunter and Dan Diamond rounded out the day, talking to students about SHARKWATER and THE ROCKET, respectively. Both Emily and Dan have shown real dedication to the REEL CANADA cause this year, coming out to an incredible number of events in person and via Skype.


Because of a generous sponsorship from Pizza Pizza, we were able to provide a free pizza lunch to all participating students – something which they definitely appreciated (some came back not just for seconds, but even thirds). There’s no happier sight than a bunch of smiling, well fed kids, and the afternoon screenings were packed and animated. Students had lots of questions for PROM NIGHT IN MISSISSIPPI producer Patricia Aquino, who said afterwards that it was one of the most engaged groups she’s ever spoken with, in dozens of screenings of the film to thousands of students.


On April 18th we did it all again at the Cineplex Sheppard Grande for a group of nearly 1,000 students from the Toronto District School Board. This event kicked off the Ontario portion of our National Tour.

REEL CANADA in Winnipeg


On Tuesday April 17th, REEL CANADA makes a splash in Winnipeg with a three-venue, six-film event for over 400 students at River East Collegiate. The school is managing the tech and logistics for this event, while REEL CANADA brings in the films, the talent, and the awesome discussions about Canadian culture and identity, of course. We're thrilled to be working with Pat Chelack, the teacher at River East who first contacted us not long ago with big dreams of a festival event before the end of the school year. 


In the morning at River East we'll be screening THE CORPORATION (with a Q&A via Skype with Kat Dodds, producer of the multi-media web project for the blockbuster documentary), THE ROCKET (with a Q&A via Skype with NHL Publisher and hockey-whiz Dan Diamond) and SHARKWATER (with eco-warrior, filmmaker, and REEL CANADA superstar Emily Hunter in attendance, live). 


In the afternoon, students will be watching the documentary SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL (with a Skype Q&A with director Peter Raymont) as well as the films PROM NIGHT IN MISSISSIPPI and MAMBO ITALIANO.


River East collegiate is a UNESCO Associated School, which means that they're dedicated to supporting international understanding, peace, intercultural dialogue, sustainable development, and quality education. The school contacted REEL CANADA in the hopes of putting together a festival on social justice and environmental issues to complement and support the work they're already doing in those areas. The doc-heavy programme of thought provoking films will spark some engaging dialogue and hopefully inspire some bright young Winnipeggers to change the world! 

REEL CANADA Peel Cineplex Day


Our third annual Cineplex day with the Peel District School Board will be taking place on today at the SilverCity Brampton. Over 650 secondary school students from across the Peel DSB will participate, selecting from three feature film screenings in the morning and three in the afternoon. AM films include THE ROCKET (with NHL publisher and hockey mega-expert Dan Diamond in attendance), ONE WEEK, preceded by some comedy shorts by Adam Brodie and Dave Derewlany (with the always hilarious Adam & Dave in attendance) and SHARKWATER (with eco-warrior and filmmaker Emily Hunter in attendance, who's been setting students on fire with her enthusiasm and passion throughout REEL CANADA's seventh season, making stops on our national tour in Montague PEI, Montreal QC, and soon, Winnipeg MB).



In the afternoon, students will watch the zombie comedy FIDO, preceded by the short film EVELYN: THE CUTEST EVIL DEAD GIRL (with star Nadia Litz in attendance), the documentary PROM NIGHT IN MISSISSIPPI (with producer Patricia Aquino in attendance), and IRON ROAD


This event kicks off the "Ontario leg" of our national tour, which will include one more large Cineplex Day in Toronto on the 18th, and six other Do-It-Yourself festivals between now and mid-May. 

REEL CANADA in Medicine Hat

REEL CANADA Medicine Hat High School


It really is a fascinating experience screening Canadian films in different high schools across the country.  Every community is different, every school its own living organism with its own rules, culture, style.


At one point a teacher sat me down and shared with me some of the history of the place.  Her family had been there for generations and she prided herself on an intimate knowledge of the ages of her city.  The precise origins of the name are lost in the mists of time but she favoured the story of a battle between the Sioux and the Cree in which the combatants faced off on either side of the South Saskatchewan River that now runs through the middle of town.  At one point, according to my tutor, the healer from one of the tribes sensed a looming defeat and defected by crossing the river, losing his hat in the current.  “Medicine Man’s Hat” was eventually shortened to the present day moniker.


Even more fun, and more easily documented, was the story of how in 1910 a committee of the city’s leading citizens hatched a plan to change the city’s name to something more dignified.   Those who were appalled by the idea wrote to none other than Rudyard Kipling, who had been mightily impressed by the place when he visited a few years earlier, and his scathing response to the suggestion was printed on the front page of the Medicine Hat News, thereby quashing any future such initiatives.


REEL CANADA Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis


As for the films, it seems the 800 students of Medicine Hat High got as much or more out of what they watched as I got from my teacher friend.  THE ROCKET was a revelation to them, having had very little awareness prior to watching it of the Quiet Revolution and the history of Quebec-Canada relations.  Afterwards they were treated to a wealth of further information from Dan Diamond, official publisher for the NHL and perhaps the most authoritative hockey expert in the land.  Dan joined them via Skype from his Toronto office.


Another special highlight was the appearance in person of Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis, fresh from their trip to the Oscars where they had been nominated for their lovely animated short film WILD LIFE (their second nomination!).  Wendy and Amanda were generous enough to make the three-hour drive from their home in Calgary the previous day in order to speak to the young Medicine Hatters (?), guiding them through a brief history of Canadian animation while screening ten of their all-time favourite pieces.


In planning this event, the diligent RC team had the pleasure of alerting Albertans to the fact that they had such talented and accomplished filmmakers in their midst.  They were always surprised and delighted to hear it, and that is a perfect symbol of what REEL CANADA exists to do:  promote our own brilliant storytellers to the people who most need to know about them, namely other Canadians.