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Wednesday, 22 June 2016 15:05

National Film Board’s The Grasslands Project a hit with viewers

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"Life out here in Foremost" amongst the films in the Grasslands Project "Life out here in Foremost" amongst the films in the Grasslands Project

A collection of 10 short films about special people and places in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan was a hit with those who came out to see the film earlier this month and in May at nine different venues.


Now, for those who missed it, they can watch it at home.
The National Film Board’s (NFB) The Grasslands Project was a collection of films describing the lives of interesting people in small communities on the prairies.
Long-time director Scott Parker researched and visited these communities and talked to the people to got their stories. They screened those films in the communities with Parker and NFB Executive Producer David Christensen in attendance.
Parker was pleased with the results. He has worked in film and television at various levels for more than 30 years so for him to be that excited about the outcome shows how well it went.
The audience reactions were different, but each was what he hoped for, especially in Wood Mountain, Sask.
“The audiences were different, which was so interesting, because the films were based on common themes that resonate in every community where we premiered the films. We heard this from a lot of people,” says Parker. “Audiences in Radville recognized aspects of themselves and their community in Homecoming, which was shot in Magrath (about 1,200 kilometres away), but the audiences were all different.  
“Some were a little more reserved in their viewing of the films — appreciative, but reserved. Others were more lively, pointing out characters they recognize and places they’ve been. Coutts has given us small, but terrifically enthusiastic audiences.  I think our biggest surprise was how many people came out thanks in large part to our publicity and marketing team. We were often scrambling to set up more chairs as people kept coming in. In Wood Mountain, there is only 21 people living in the town, and we had 111 people at the hall for the screening. The premiere tour was one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.”
The Grasslands Project included the following short films described by NFB:
• A Rancher’s View: Cattle were once considered a major threat to the integrity of the grasslands, but cattle of rancher Miles Anderson, whose land is adjacent to the Grasslands National Park, are now seen as part of the conservation solution.
 • No Other Place: Five prairie artists from across the grasslands region take audiences to the places that inspire them.
 • Homecoming: Small-town gatherings are a major force in keeping rural communities vibrant. In Magrath, follow the celebrations through the experiences of volunteers, the cornerstone of these events.
 • Life Out Here: Women ranchers can ranch as well as men or maybe better. In this film, women ranchers choose the themes to be discussed, then interview one another.
• The Last One: The last surviving member of a homesteading family laments the end of an era.
 • Generations: A father and son navigate the coming generational change on their family’s farm, as 19-year-old Shawn prepares to follow in the footsteps of his father.
 • Population 21: Wood Mountain is literally a bend in the road, but for the handful of kind souls who still live in the village, there are plenty of good reasons to call it home.
 • Val Marie Hotel: This hotel is more than just a business, it’s the hub of the community. As its owner prepares for a big night, we learn about the importance of the hotel from the people of Val Marie.
 • After the Fire: Small rural communities rely on their volunteer firefighters to handle any emergencies, but in a small community, victims are often friends and family.
• Les Fransaskois: Gravelbourg is considered the centre of French language and culture in the southern Prairies. In this short film we hear from the Fransaskois about the challenges and future of their unique culture.
Parker was happy with the feedback. He says emotions were so genuine and raw, he couldn’t have asked for anything better.
“People were generous in their discussion of the films after the screenings. We had tough, resilient farmers and ranchers in tears watching some of these films. They seemed to really hit the mark with our prairie audiences, and this is what we wanted,” Parker explains. “The reason we expected they would be so important, is that these stories came from these people. It was some of these same audience members that told us what stories were important to them. The premiere tour was a real vindication of our collaboration with people from the southern prairies, in representing and documenting their unique way of life. What a pleasure this whole project has been.”
To view the films for free, go to the NFB’s website and click on the link for the film and follow the instructions at: http://grasslands.nfb.ca.

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor