Film & Media Projects

Where the Poppies Grow: The Lakehead at War (2018)  
Où rougissent les coquelicots (2018)

Poster of Where the Poppies Grow30 min, Docudrama, available in English and French
Credit: Historical Research

Where the Poppies Grow is a short docudrama about one soldier during the Great War.  Alfred Saxberg was a first-generation Finnish Canadian who signed up at the beginning of the war and was fortunate to return home in 1919. When the Great War ended In November 1918, the people of the Lakehead could take pride in the contributions they had made. Over 6,200 people enlisted either as volunteers or conscripts. At home, the community supported the war by raising money to assist soldiers’ wives, children, and other dependents. There were also campaigns to help finance the purchase of military equipment and to send personal items to the soldiers overseas. By the end of the conflict, approximately 300 people from the Lakehead were killed overseas or died of illness due to their war service.  Thousands more were wounded in body and mind. Where the Poppies Grow is a docudrama that looks at the sacrifices made by people from the Lakehead to secure victory in the war.

Où rougissent les coquelicots est le portrait émouvant d’un soldat et de sa communauté durant la Grande Guerre. Ce drame-documentaire de 30 minutes tire son titre du poème de John McRae dans les champs de Flandre et il introduit l’histoire de la réunion de 1921 a Port-Arthur, Ontario, lorsque le coquelicot a été désigné comme un symbole international ou de commémoration. Alfred Saxberg a été l’un premiers Canadiens d’origine finlandaise de sa génération à rejoindre le 52eme bataillon en 1915 et, chanceux, il est revenu chez lui en 1919. Le film suit Alfred quand il est mobilisé, quand il est entrainé et quand il part sur le champ de bataille en Europe. On revient au Lakehead où les membres de sa famille, restés au pays, envoient des marques de soutien, même s’ils ont eux-mêmes fait des sacrifices et connu leurs propres tragédies.


The Lakehead Finns - The Working Class 1900-35: "Hard Work Conquers All" (Beta English, Finnish, and French Versions 2016, Final in progress)

Educational Website -
Credit: Project Lead / Historical Research / WriterScreen Shot of Lakehead Finns

Funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), The Lakehead Finns allows users to explore the Finnish experience and Finnish working-class culture in Canada. It is intended to assist Canadians understand the place of Finnish immigrants in the annals of the history of the Canadian labour movement and the political evolution of Canadian society. Through text, oral testimonies, and video the story of how Finnish immigrants brought to Canada their experiences with Tzarist Russia and the Russian Revolution and how their politics shaped the Canadian left is outlined. It will eventually be available in French, English, and Finnish.

Under the Red Star (2011)

Docudrama, 78 min, ShebaFilms
Credit: Historical Research / Consultant | Assistant Production Manager

Based on my book Labour at the Lakehead, "Under the Red Star" is a feature length docu-drama, in Finnish and English, about the vibrant culture and politics at the heart of Canada’s largest labour hall. In 1910, Finnish immigrants built the Finnish Labour Temple in Port Arthur, Ontario (now Thunder Bay). In its early days it was inseparably linked to the activities of Canadian labour and the left. The Big Finn Hall was a place where culture and politics came together. This film integrates archival footage, photos and fictionalized scenes to bring to life the lively and dramatic past of the early years of Finnish immigration to Canada. "Under the Red Star" tells the story of the struggle for a just society in the early twentieth century Canada.

Major Festivals:

  • 2012 Canadian Labour International Film Festival
  • 2011 Northern Character Film Festival (Murmansk, Russia)
  • 2011 Bay Street Film Festival, Thunder Bay, Canada.

Life is But a Dream.... (2010)

Documentary, 7 min, Flash Frame & Shebandowan Films
Credit: Production Assistant; Uncredited: Editorial Assistant

“Life Is But A Dream…” is about nationally renowned author Charlie Wilkins who is getting ready to row across the Atlantic Ocean at the end of 2010. Selected as one of the 12 finalists for International Documentary Challenge and screened at Hot Docs. Click here to view the film on the Doc Challenge website.

  • Honorable mention by the Hot Docs international jury and awarded the Best Use of Sports Genre by the Doc Challenge.

Major Festivals and Broadcast:

  • 2011 The Documentary Channel (USA)
  • 2011 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival
  • 2010 Hot Docs
  • 2010 NFB Mediatheque in Toronto,
  • 2010 Bay Street Film Festival

Dorothea Mitchell: A Reel Pioneer (2006)

Documentary, 52min, Shebandowan Films
Credit: Historical Research / Consultant

Dorothea Mitchell was born in Britain, raised in India and immigrated to Canada in 1904. After settling in Northwestern Ontario she became the first single woman to be granted a homestead in Ontario, and became the first woman in Canada to make independent films. Along the way, she became known as the Lady Lumberjack and later distinguished herself as an author. Based on my research for Celluloid Dreams: An Illustrated History of Early Film at the Lakehead and Lady Lumberjack: An Annotated Collection of Dorothea Mitchell's Writings,  "A Reel Pioneer" is a film about Dorothea Mitchell and the Port Arthur Amateur Cinema Society. Together, they made the first feature-length amateur film in Canada and their story, told through the eyes of Dorothea Mitchell, is brought back in the form of a historical documentry. Dorothea Mitchell's story is an inspiration to women everywhere. "A Reel Pioneer" is currently being broadcast in Canada on the BRAVO! channel. (2005) screen capture

Educational Website -
Credit: Writer, Researcher, Co-Designer

In only two years, (1929-1930), Dorothea Mitchell and the Port Arthur Amateur Cinema Society produced three feature-length films in what is now Thunder Bay, Ontario. The historical importance of the films made by the Port Arthur Cinema Society is second to none. This website uses these examples to assist teachers of Media Studies in the instruction of filmmaking, and to explore a little-known chapter in Canada's filmmaking history. This project was funded in part by the Department of Canadian Heritage and produced with the assistance of the Audio-Visual Preservation Trust.

Port Arthur Cinema Society Collection (2005)

Three Silent Films, 47 min, 25 min, and 49 min, DVD
Credit: Research / Consultant

Although short-lived, the Port Arthur Amateur Cinema Society, the first such organization in Canada, made three feature-length films in less than two years. This included "A Race for Ties" the first amateur feature-length film in Canada. The complete collection of the extant works of the Port Arthur Amateur Cinema Society. The digitally preserved set includes A Race for Ties (1929), Sleep-Inn Beauty (1929); and The Fatal Flower (1930; 2004).

The Fatal Flower (1930; 2004)

Silent Film, 49 min, Flash Frame & Shebandowan Films
Credit: Historical Research / Consultant

A feature length silent film, shot by the Port Arthur Amateur Cinema Society in 1930, but not finished because of the onset of the Depression and the advent of "talkies." The raw footage was preserved in the Library and National Archives of Canada until it was "discovered" in 2000. In an effort to pay tribute to Canada's filmmaking pioneers and to learn the technique of silent film, an enthusiastic group of people interested in film history pooled their talents to complete The Fatal Flower in 2004.  Their efforts paid off in the form of a 45 minute murder mystery complete with an original musical score.