Canadian filmmakers consider how to make Heritage Minutes fresh again

Good to see this kind of questioning and thinking given the need to broaden the reach of the Heritage Minutes (which I always liked):

Kari Skogland thinks it’s about time that filmmakers push the boundaries on Canada’s Heritage Minutes.

After directing two early instalments in the series of bite-sized historic moments, the Ottawa-born director suggests there’s an opportunity to re-envision the project as a collection of thought-provoking conversation starters, rather than simple recreations of the past.

“It’s one thing to say we’re proud of a moment,” Skogland says.

“It’s another thing to say we’re involved in a moment.”

Skogland, who has gone on to direct TV shows including “House of Cards,” “The Walking Dead” and “Vikings,” says the latest call out by Historica Canada for another two instalments of the series opens the door for artists to draft a few edgier proposals.

Past dramatizations often leaned towards safe, heart-warming tales like “Winnie,” the story of Winnie the Pooh’s creation. Even Skogland’s own Mennonite-set history lesson “Water Pump” played like a sugar-coated memory.

“Maybe it doesn’t need to be quite that saccharine,” she suggests.

Historica Canada has been making tweaks to the series in recent years, turning its lens to more shameful parts of Canada’s history. Two new Heritage Minutes last year acknowledged the country’s racism with stories that addressed residential schools and segregation.

Skogland thinks the next step could be acknowledging how our Canadian artists have impacted the world. A timely and important example, she suggests, would be dedicating a Heritage Minute to the story of Leonard Cohen.

“He was a poet and a social commentator,” she says. “He had a huge value in his time to make people think about the world and how we perceive it.”

Historica Canada’s chief executive says he’s open to all new ideas, but that he’s particularly hoping to fill glaring omissions in the series, which after nearly 26 years still hasn’t tackled some important subjects.

“There’s a lot of holes, a lot of things to do,” says Anthony Wilson-Smith.

In particular, Heritage Minutes haven’t paid much attention to stories of the LGBTQ community, young people, religion and the environment.

Wilson-Smith says he’d like all of those themes captured in vignettes sooner than later.

Storytelling diversity is another priority. A variety of technologies like 3D and CGI haven’t been used much at all, so they could become new tools for retelling a particular moment. Documentary-style formats are also on the table as a possibility.

“We’re not filmmakers here,” he adds.

“So when people come forward with ideas where we say, ‘We haven’t looked at it that way before,’ we’re gonna (consider them) very hard.”

Breaking the mould has been a top priority for Wilson-Smith. He recently green-lit the first animated Heritage Minute, which explores Canada’s immigration history. The clip is set for release later this year.

The less-conventional style could allow for more original ideas to flow in.

Source: Canadian filmmakers consider how to make Heritage Minutes fresh again – The Globe and Mail

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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