Documentary filmmaker Mark Collings is currently working on a documentary about Red Deer's history.

New doc sheds light on historical culture divide

With French farmers north of the river and English settlers south of it, Canada’s ‘two solitudes’ were once all-too evident in Red Deer. While it’s not widely known today, Red Deer was once a microcosm of this country’s cultural and linguistic divide, said city resident Mark Collings, who’s producing a documentary on the city’s history.

With French farmers north of the river and English settlers south of it, Canada’s ‘two solitudes’ were once all-too evident in Red Deer.

While it’s not widely known today, Red Deer was once a microcosm of this country’s cultural and linguistic divide, said city resident Mark Collings, who’s producing a documentary on the city’s history.

With these historic rivals staring at each other across the Red Deer River, “there must be some drama in there somewhere, just waiting to be drawn out…” he added, with a chuckle.

The Francophone neighbourhoods that sprang up around St. Joseph’s Convent in the late 1800s eventually became “absorbed” into a predominantly English-speaking community — like what happened in many other places in Alberta, said Collings.

But Red Deer retains connections with its Gallic past through a local Francophone association, the all-French Ecole La Prairie School, and highly popular French Immersion programming in public and Catholic schools.

Collings, of Hwy2.TV, is making a one-hour documentary about Red Deer along with camera operator/director Marcelo Vilhena, a student in Red Deer College’s Motion Picture Arts Program.

The filmmakers are planning to interview local historian Michael Dawe, Ian Warwick of Sunnybrook Farm, Jim Robertson of the Kerry Wood Nature Centre, and other city residents about little known but “fascinating” aspects of Red Deer’s past.

Collings hopes to complete the documentary in 2017, and make it available for possible airing on PBS, Shaw TV or the CBC.

But he will also be providing shorter local history lessons to the public starting this fall.

Collings is completing a series of filmed vignettes about destination points along the city’s walking tours. He will be adding them to an interactive map he is creating at www.reddeercrossings.

By going to the website and clicking on each charted destination point along the walking tour map, people who are taking self-guided tours of Red Deer will be able to see one-to-two-minute films about various landmarks — including historic businesses, Ghost sculptures, downtown hotels, the former railway station, war memorials and old military sites.

Collings estimates about 10 vignettes per walking tour will be on the site by September.

The idea is to “flesh-out” the historic factsheet for local residents as well as tourists, said Collings, who took filmmaking at Algonquin College in Ottawa.

Having previously made a documentary about Hull, Que.’s gangster-ridden past, Collings believes this city has its share of colourful characters — such as Rev. Leonard Gaetz, who pulled a fast one when he gave some of this own land to the railway, altering the course of Red Deer’s history and his own financial profitability.

“We want to connect people to the city by exploring some of the stories. We want to engage people in their environment,” said Collings, who has applied for various grants to make the longer documentary.

He said he’s already received a letter of support for the projects from the City of Red Deer.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Red Deer College Queens host third annual Pink in the Rink game

The RDC Queens picked up an extra special victory on home ice… Continue reading

PHOTOS: The Mustard Seed CEO speaks at Seeds of Hope Gala in Red Deer

The first-ever Seeds of Hope Gala was held at the Red Deer… Continue reading

PHOTO: Renewable Energy Fair at Red Deer College

The Renewable Energy Fair and Workshops event was held at Red Deer… Continue reading

Person airlifted to hospital after collision near Innisfail

One person was airlifted to hospital after a serious collision west of… Continue reading

WATCH: Make-A-Wish grants Star Wars loving teen’s wish

The Make-A-Wish Foundation granted Anakin Suerink’s wish in Red Deer Saturday afternoon

‘Stupid’ law preventing Canada’s re-engagement with Iran: retired envoy

OTTAWA — The real reason the Liberal government hasn’t been able to… Continue reading

Voters head to polls for BC municipal elections today

VANCOUVER — Voters in British Columbia will head to the polls today… Continue reading

All sharks tagged in N.S. expedition can now be tracked on Ocearch website

HALIFAX — All six of the sharks tagged in Nova Scotian waters… Continue reading

Memorial service for former PQ minister Lise Payette today in Montreal

MONTREAL — Mourners will gather to remember former Parti Quebecois cabinet minister… Continue reading

Immunotherapy scores a first win against some breast cancers

For the first time, one of the new immunotherapy drugs has shown… Continue reading

‘Mom I’m in trouble:’ Canadian, Brit face 10 years in jail for alleged graffiti

GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. — The mother of a Canadian who was arrested… Continue reading

Coyote on the prowl near Penhold

This coyote was out on the prowl in a field just west… Continue reading

Most Read