Indigenous filmmakers option book, Cold Case North

Valerie G. Barnes Connell Jordan

Special to the Daily Herald

The University of Regina Press announced the selling of the option for Cold Case North: The Search for James Brady and Absolom Halkett, a book by Michael Nest, released in 2020, to Wolfwalker Production Inc. according to a news release dated Dec. 15, 2021.

Indigenous filmmakers, Danis Goulet, Dr. Tasha Hubbard and Shane Balcourt, teamed together for the proposed project.

“This is very early for us now,” Goulet said in an interview with the Northern Advocate. “Right now, we’re considering it as a limited series, but not as a film … all this could change as things develop.”

The team brings together three well-known Indigenous filmmakers, two from Saskatchewan and Balcourt from Ontario with roots in Alberta. All three have a variety of skills and experience.

“Shane has worked a lot in television and documentary and independent speaker films and Tasha is known across Saskatchewan for her ground-breaking documentaries,” Goulet said. “The three of us have teamed up to option Cold Case because we all felt really passionate about some of these stories that are untold … We think it is a compelling story and also we want to tell some more stories about Jim Brady as a Métis leader and also about that political time in history.”

The team is considering a limited series for the final production, but things could change.

“A story often tells you what it wants to be, so, as we develop it, we’ll continue to render what it should be,” Goulet explained.

Balcourt, Goulet and Hubbard have met throughout 2021 in preparation for the purchase, but there is no timeline for any final projection as yet.

“An option agreement actually lasts for a few years, so we don’t have times in place yet,” Goulet explained.

“We’re just thrilled that the storytellers and the writers really trusted us with this story, you know, because we know how important this history is to the community. We also know that it’s delicate and sensitive because Jim Brady was such an important person to many people and so we just want to move forward in a respectful way. We’re really excited to be entrusted with the story.”

Cold Case North: The Search for James Brady and Absolom Halkett chronicles a recent investigation into the mysterious disappearance of the two men June 7 1967 on Lower Foster Lake in northern Saskatchewan.

The two men disappeared while on a prospecting trip and have not been seen since. Encouraged by her Uncle from La Ronge, Dr. Deanna Reder, associate professor of English and Chair of the First Nations Studies at Simon Fraser University, who has roots in La Ronge and family connections to James Brady, teamed up with Australian researcher, Michael Nest, PhD, for a project to revisit the case. The project involved interviewing as many people as possible who knew Brady and Halkett and had any connections to the case, along with searching the site at Lower Foster Lake, north of La Ronge, with sonar equipment owned and operated by people in Grandmother’s Bay, Sask.

Eric Bell, owner of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in La Ronge, engineered most of the interviews and Nest wrote the book, with Reder and Bell, published in 2020 through the University of Regina Press. The book is the base for the film/tv rights option.

The filmmakers have had some initial meetings. The production is under Balcourt’s company and they are beginning to work out the logistics of what the production will be and how they will go about the development, Goulet said.

“We haven’t really started to dig into the shape … We are working with a researcher … We’re just really starting initial meetings, but we’re thrilled cause we’ve all felt this was a very important story to tell.

Balcourt is an award-winning filmmaker based in Toronto with several works including the feature film Tkaronto, CBC Firsthand documentary Indictment and two Historica Canada Minutes Chanie Wenjack and Naskumituwin (Treaty), according to his bio.

Goulet was in La Ronge recently to promote her latest, and first full-length feature film, Knight Raiders. She completed several short films in the La Ronge Area including Wapawekka and Barefoot, filmed in La Ronge.

Hubbard released: Two Worlds Colliding (2004), Birth of a Family (2017) and, most recently, nîpawistâsowin: We will Stand Up (2019).

Wolfwalker Production Inc. is a Toronto-based production company “committed to bringing indigenous centric stories to screens of all sizes,” quoted from the news release.

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