Produced by Saloon Media, a Blue Ant Media production company, the new documentary premieres on CBC Gem and CBC’s The Passionate Eye on October 4 at 8 p.m. (8:30 NT)
From students toppling and beheading the statue of Egerton Ryerson to protestors tearing down monuments of Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth and Sir John A. Macdonald, the summer of 2021 ignited an era of reckoning and re-evaluation of our past. Commissioned by the CBC and produced by Saloon Media, a Blue Ant Media production company, Inside The Statue Wars is a powerful new documentary that examines these events and offers compelling perspectives on how these statues could symbolize dreams or nightmares, depending on your point of view. The documentary premieres on The Passionate Eye, Wednesday, October 4 on CBC Gem and CBC TV at 8 p.m. (8:30 NT)
Inside the Statue Wars hears from the key players on the front lines, many of whom are sharing their stories for the first time, including: The History Buff who is a staunch defender of John A Mcdonald; The Professor who explains people’s attachment to the monuments; The Statue-slayer who beheaded Egerton Ryerson’s statue; The Poet who posed in provocative photos with Ryerson’s head; The Artist, a renowned Cowichan/Syilx First Nations artist who is also a survivor of the Kamloops Indian Residential School; The Photographer whose work challenges the messages statues send about identity, power and belonging; The Activist, the face of a powerful Indigenous youth movement that is challenging colonial narratives; and The Land Defender a multi-hyphenate, young, Indigenous land defender, singer and award-winning actress from Tla’amin Nation.
This documentary explores the why behind these events and gives voice to the two sides: sovereignty and equity-seeking communities who say it is a long overdue reckoning and argue that statues are relics of a racist era that must be removed before we can reach reconciliation; and those who say statue toppling is vandalism and based on a dangerous distortion of history.
For many, the statues glorified individuals who had caused enormous harm to Indigenous communities in particular. In Canada, many of the locations of former statues became make-shift memorials for Indigenous children. More than 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children from across the country were separated from their families and communities, forced to attend Indian Residential Schools, often located far from their homes, and many never returned home.
While the issue has gone to sleep since 2021, the team of creators hope this documentary will restart the conversation.
“Few people think about statues until they come down,” says Producer and Director, Elizabeth St. Philip. “We know what got toppled. This documentary is about who brought them down and why.”
“It’s a piece about those that feel safe in public spaces and the stories of some of the people that don’t,” says Yuma Dean Hester, Producer and DOP. “No matter where we traveled and who we spoke with, everyone had a strong opinion and personal story to tell.”
“Like so many Canadians, I was deeply moved by events in 2020-21, when statues and monuments across the country became a focal point of protest,” says Producer Steve Gamester. “Two years later, the underlying issues have not gone away, the country is in limbo and we hope the film can contribute to the unfinished discussion.”
Produced and created by Saloon Media’s Elizabeth St. Philip (9/11 Kids, The Colour of Beauty), Steve Gamester (9/11 Kids, Cheating Hitler: Surviving the Holocaust) and Yuma Dean Hester, a founding member and Creative Director with Bawaadan Collective, a group of like-minded Indigenous artisans and accomplices, who develop collaborative approaches to modern artistic storytelling and film production processes. For CBC, Sally Catto is General Manager, Entertainment, Factual, & Sports; Jennifer Dettman is Executive Director, Unscripted Content; Sandra Kleinfeld is Senior Director, Documentary; and Michelle McCree is Executive in Charge of Production, CBC Docs and The Passionate Eye. Executive Producers for Saloon Media are Steve Gamester and Michael Kot. Inside the Statue Wars was produced with the participation of Canada Media Fund.