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Thousand Yard Stare explores the painful and personal consequences of war

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Thousand Yard Stare, winner of the 2018 Rosie Award for Best Dramatic Feature/Made-For-TV movie, examines the post-war reality of living with PTSD. Photo courtesy Rambunxious Entertainment.

According to a statistic provided at the start of Thousand Yard Stare – winner of the 2018 Rosie Award for Best Dramatic Feature or Made-For-TV Movie – an average of 20 combat veterans take their lives every day in the United States. That number translates to 7,300 per year, more than the number of soldiers that had died in the entirety of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Aaron Kurmey, director of Thousand Yard Stare, said being made aware of those statistics was part of the reason why the team decided to focus their film around post-traumatic stress disorder.

“We met a guy through a friend who had served in the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan and he had really bad PTSD,” Kurmey said. “(He told us about) his experiences coming back home and how that messed him up, so there’s a lot of him and a lot of that in the movie. That was an angle and a message and a story that we wanted to tell.”

Thousand Yard Stare follows Roland Rothach, a sergeant with the United States army in February 1943. Stationed in Tunisia, Rothach and his squad suffer a defeat at the hands of the German forces, which leads to Rothach losing everyone in his squad.

“The movie deals with him losing everybody and then the repercussions of that, dealing with PTSD when he goes back home, reliving these things and then how that has an impact on his family life as well,” Kurmey said.

Produced on a limited budget, the filmmakers had to get creative in order to depict war on a large scale. Kurmey said the film was written in December 2012 and took four to five years to complete, largely due to the complicated nature of the visual effects.

“It’s a war movie, so you’re competing against other war movies and action movies that do have a lot of big special effects. When you look at the credits of those movies you’ll see hundreds of names scroll by,” Kurmey said. “And then this movie there’s like five people. We have like 300 or 400 visual effects shots and there were a handful of us that were working on them.”

Kurmey recalled shooting a battle scene in Drumheller, Alta., that spoke to the demanding nature of the genre. The scene, set during the Battle of Kasserine Pass, saw the American troops lose the battle to the Germans.

“The battle (involved) thousands of people, and we have 30 people in Drumheller trying to make this happen. One of the things we did was, using visual effects, we’d turn those 30 people – 10 or 15 on screen – and multiply them,” Kurmey said. “We’d double them up and triple them up in post so all of a sudden you’ve got a shot that has three or four hundred people running through it, when it’s really just the same 10 or 15 people just in slightly different costumes. That stuff takes time to do.”

Without access to actual World War 2 machinery, the filmmakers used miniatures and utilized green screen to depict the tanks involved in the battle. Kurmey said the team also brought in members of the First Special Service Force Living History Association to participate in certain scenes.

“A bunch of them volunteered their time and equipment and guns and uniforms. I think we had an anti-tank gun out at one point,” Kurmey said. “A lot of people came out and were really excited about seeing a World War 2 movie being made in Alberta.”

Though the film’s production was lengthy and at times arduous, it eventually paid off, with the filmmakers taking home both the Best Dramatic Feature and the Best Screenwriter awards at the Rosie Awards in Calgary May 12.

Currently released in Korea and England, filmmakers are currently negotiating in order to secure a North American release. Kurmey said he hopes that release comes in Summer 2018.

Check out the trailer below.

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Watch the Oscar-nominated Canadian short “Animal Behaviour”

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The National Film Board of Canada is offering Canadians the opportunity to watch the Oscar-nominated Canadian short film "Animal Behaviour" until the end of today. Photo courtesy NFB
The National Film Board of Canada is offering Canadians the opportunity to watch the Oscar-nominated Canadian short film "Animal Behaviour" until the end of today. Photo courtesy NFB

To get prepped for the 91st Academy Awards, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is offering Canadians the chance to check out Animal Behaviour, nominated tonight in the Best Animated Short Film category.

Animal Behaviour is a new short from Alison Snowden and David Fine, who previously won an Oscar in 1994 for Bob’s Birthday. The short is the 75th Oscar nomination for the NFB, and the first short film for Snowden and Fine since Bob’s Birthday. The 91st Oscars air tonight at 8 Eastern on ABC and CTV.

Watch Animal Behaviour below (expires tonight).

Next up on The Mutt: Wynonna Earp future in doubt as Season 4 delayed

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Wynonna Earp future in doubt as Season 4 delayed

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Wynonna Earp Season 3 Episode 11/12 - "Daddy Lessons/War Paint". Photo courtesy Bell Media
Wynonna Earp Season 4 is in jeopardy, according to the The Hollywood Reporter, due to financial difficulties. Photo courtesy Space

All of a sudden, Wynonna Earp is in Purgatory.

Earpers were stunned Thursday night when executive producer and showrunner Emily Andras posted (and subsequently deleted) a tweet suggesting that fans of the show may soon have to fight for it. Another tweet, posted shortly later, took a decidedly more straight-forward approach.

Andras appeared to be responding to the news that funding for the fourth season of Wynonna Earp appeared to be on shaky ground, according to a report from The Hollywood Reporter. According to THR, financial challenges faced by IDW Entertainment have stalled production on Season 4, despite the company being contractually obligated to deliver the show to Syfy.

In response to the news, Earpers took to Twitter with the hashtag #FightForWynonna, which at the time of publication was one of the top Twitter trends in Canada. Though Season 4 has yet to be officially cancelled, IDW has yet to commit to a start date for the new season.

“IDW is committed to continuing to tell the Wynonna Earp story,” the company said in a statement posted to Twitter. “Much like the fans, we are passionate about not only the series, but the comics, the characters and the overall message that the Wynonna Earp franchise carries. We are in the process of working out the details for how the Wynonna story will continue and will share new details very soon.”

Our resident Earper, Ghezal Amiri, was a big fan of Season 3, writing that the show’s season finale, entitled “War Paint”, was a “wildly emotional conclusion.” Read her recap here.

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Trouble In The Garden’s compelling narrative centres on The Sixties Scoop

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Cara Gee’s strong performance as Raven propels director Roz Owen’s first feature Trouble In The Garden, a drama about The Sixties Scoop, a practice that saw an estimated total of 20,000 aboriginal children taken from their families. Photo courtesy Red Eye Media
Cara Gee’s strong performance as Raven propels director Roz Owen’s first feature Trouble In The Garden, a drama about The Sixties Scoop, a practice that saw an estimated total of 20,000 aboriginal children taken from their families. Photo courtesy Red Eye Media

Specific attention has been paid in recent years to the history of residential schools in Canada and to the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women. But the history of Indigenous people in Canada is haunted by further injustices, including that of The Sixties Scoop. 

That practice, which saw an estimated total of 20,000 aboriginal children taken from their families and fostered in primarily white households, is the central focus behind director Roz Owen’s Trouble In The Garden, which opened theatrically in Canada on February 15.

Trouble In The Garden is Owen’s first narrative feature after a career primarily working in documentary film. While Owen is not Indigenous herself, she was inspired to make the film after hearing her sister-in-law’s story of being scooped.

“Drama is where my heart is. That really was a way to tell this story,” Owen said. “(I wanted to) find a way to have the opportunity to flip some people’s thinking. I feel like we don’t see ourselves very well sometimes.” 

To ensure she was portraying the history of The Sixties Scoop accurately, Owen reached out to University of Regina professor and Sixties Scoop survivor Raven Sinclair. Sinclair came on board Trouble In The Garden as a consultant and producer.

With Sinclair’s help, Owen was able to craft a compelling window into a piece of Canadian history too frequently forgotten. Trouble In The Garden, which was an official selection at the Whistler Film Festival in December 2018, is also propelled by an excellent performance from Cara Gee.

Owen spoke with The Mutt prior to Trouble In The Garden opening in theatres February 15. This interview has been edited and condensed for length.

THE MUTT: Why was it important to you to have Raven Sinclair involved in the process of making this film?

ROZ OWEN: I knew that I needed help to make it honest. I had heard her on CBC and I’d been looking for an Indigenous collaborator. I just loved the way she spoke. She’s like a wordsmith. So, I just picked up the phone and called, and she answered, and we just started talking.

TM: Did she tell you anything about The Sixties Scoop that surprised you?

RO: She was scooped herself, so she has knowledge of what that feels like. She’s interviewed about 200 scoop survivors across this country as her PhD. She’s got this vast knowledge of what that’s like, going into a family that pretends you don’t have a history and then try to make you white.

Trouble In The Garden focuses on Raven (Gee), an eco-activist who is jailed and placed in a suburban home during the period of time in Canada known as The Sixties Scoop. Photo courtesy Red Eye Media

Trouble In The Garden focuses on Raven (Gee), an eco-activist who is jailed and placed in a suburban home during the period of time in Canada known as The Sixties Scoop. Photo courtesy Red Eye Media

TM: Do you think Canadians are well-informed enough about what happened during this time period?

RO: Well, the Sixties Scoop was from the 1950s and went through to 1985. I have got students at school and the Indigenous students I have are like, “I can’t believe nobody knows about this.” I’m constantly trying to talk about it. The crew and the actors got involved with this film because of the story and the crew were very moved by the story. It’s been a well-kept Canadian secret. I love that quote from George Orwell: “If you want to keep a secret, you must first hide it from yourself.” Certainly we need to know. If we’re going to have any kind of reconciliation, we have to start with the truth.

TM: You’ve mostly been associated with documentary film throughout your career. How did your work in that area translate to Trouble In The Garden?

RO: Actually, my training is in drama. It’s drama that I love. But I was hired to direct this documentary about the first women’s shelter in Canada. I felt really guilty about it, actually. Like, why do I have the right to ask them these probing questions? But I realized that in that process they finally had a voice. So I started to look at documentary very differently because of that experience. I spent a very long time trying to get features off the ground, and I’m very proud of this film. It’s a real labour of love.

TM: What do you hope Canadians take away from Trouble In The Garden? Why would you encourage them to come out and see it?

RO: I think it’s a moving story and I think the actors are amazing in this film. It’s a Canadian story, and I think it’s been a secret for too long and it’s time we stepped up.

Trouble In The Garden plays March 1 at The Rainbow in Regina and March 8 in Saskatoon at The Roxy. For more information, click here.

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Next up on The Mutt: What Walaa Wants’ central subject is a force of nature

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