A feature film — Brotherhood — is being shot in Michipicoten about a group of teenagers who fight for survival after their 30-foot canoe capsizes during a storm in 1926. – Photo by Miguel Barbosa

By Rick Garrick

Michipicoten community members are “enjoying” the opportunity to be involved with the creation of a feature film — Brotherhood — on the community’s traditional territory.

“It was very important to bring our citizens together with this production because it’s really important to have new and diverse experiences,” says Michipicoten Gimma Kwe Patricia Tangie. “This is the first time anything like this has ever happened at Michipicoten. We are really pleased all the way around with the relationships that have been built and are being built and the experience that our citizens are enjoying.”

Tangie says some community members have been hired on with the film crew in a variety of roles.

“We have a number of our young people who are interns,” Tangie says. “We have some of our community members who are working in different areas such as cooks and building props and drivers. Even though the population has literally doubled, the sense in the community is that they are really happy to be a part of this exciting project.”

The cast and crew of the film began working in Michipicoten on Sept. 11. The film is based on a true Canadian story of a group of teenagers who fight for survival after their 30-foot canoe capsizes during a 1926 canoe trip by the Brotherhood of St. Andrew leadership group in southern Ontario.

“Michipicoten is an absolutely magical location — first of all, it’s great because it is untouched,” says film director and writer Richard Bell, noting that it is difficult to get nature shots in more southerly locations. “There is always some kind of cottage or some kind of modernism in the way, but Michipicoten is beautiful, it’s colossal, it’s primordial and there is just nothing around. You could almost shoot in a 360 direction, which is fantastic for a filmmaker.”

Bell says the film cast and crew participated in a smudging ceremony with Tangie before beginning the filming process.

“It was just an absolutely magical experience,” Bell says. “We have a cast of about 14 to 25-years-old, and it was all very moving for them. It was just an exceptional way to start the film.”

Bell says he first discovered the teenagers’ story in 2006 in a newspaper article on a mass that was being held in a church for the eightieth anniversary.

“It just caught my eye and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s an interesting story,’” Bell says. “It was just a story of the kind of heroism … that I don’t even think quite exists anymore. And I was quite floored when I saw that the story appeared in newspapers across North America and even newspapers as far as Australia and the United Kingdom.”

The teenagers’ canoe capsized during a freak storm on Balsam Lake in the Kawartha Lakes region in southern Ontario.

“Unfortunately, they couldn’t right the canoe,” Bell says. “So the movie is a survival story about these boys and their camp leaders trying to survive the night in a really horrendous situation. It’s a very transformative story — it’s about boys becoming men in the course of an evening.”

The film is produced by Mehernaz Lentin of Industry Pictures alongside Anand Ramayya of Karma Film and Jonathan Bronfman of JoBro Productions.

“Brotherhood tells an essential tale not only because of its history, but because of the story of bravery, sacrifice and selflessness it reveals,” Bell says. “It is an honour to bring a part of Canada’s rich past to the big screen.”