NFB Film: The Grasslands Project

The Grasslands Project poster
Date & Time:
03/21/2017 - 6:00pm

Phone: 250-334-3369 x4

Ten short films set in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, created with significant community input.


A Rancher’s View: Miles Anderson is in a tough spot. The land he ranches has been in his family for over a hundred years, but it’s bordered on three sides by an expanding Grasslands National Park and its conservation imperative. Cattle were once considered a major threat to the integrity of the grasslands and the endangered sage grouse in the region, but, due in large part to Miles’ persistence, his cattle are now seen as part of the conservation solution.

No Other Place: The landscape of the southern Prairies is spectacular, and has influenced artists for thousands of years. Five prairie artists from across the grasslands region take us to the places that inspire them. This film explores the landscape through the words and works of these artists and reminds us that the natural world exerts a powerful influence on both our creativity and our spirit.

Homecoming: Across the Prairies, annual celebrations take place in countless small communities. These small-town gatherings are a major force in keeping rural communities vibrant. In Magrath, Alberta, this is the weekend when everybody comes home to participate in chicken chases, family reunions and massive community barbecues. We follow the celebrations through the actions of key volunteers, who are the cornerstone of these events.

Life Out Here: Ranching and farming are male-dominated industries. But women have a strong voice in the operations, and some women have been running their own ranches for decades. A female perspective is expressed in this collaborative documentary, and it was the participants themselves who chose the themes to be discussed and then interviewed each other for the film. These women are deeply dedicated to their farms, ranches and families. They can ranch as well as a man, or maybe even better.

The Last One: “These small farms are a thing of the past,” laments Herb Pidt, whose family homesteaded on this land in the 1920s. The Pidt family scraped a living out of these harsh, dry prairies and, though poor, always managed to put food on the table. But that era has come to an end, and, as Herb very touchingly explains, he’s the last one on the farm, and there’s no one left to keep the home place together.

Generations: Many small communities are losing their young people, attracted to careers away from the farm. Nineteen-year-old Shawn Catherwood knew from a young age that he’d be a farmer. It’s always been his dream to follow in the footsteps of his father, Ken. This gentle film shows Shawn and his father as they navigate the coming generational change, while the audience is given insight into their deep love of the family farm.

Population 21: Wood Mountain is literally a bend in the road. It’s lost all four of its grain elevators, the railway was torn up, the old hotel is in ruins, and the school has been closed for a decade. One of the only attractions left is the community hall, which, on a scant few weekends out of the year, can still get crowded. Meanwhile, to the handful of kind souls who still live in the village, there are good reasons to call Wood Mountain home.

Val Marie Hotel: Aline Laturnus puts in long hours to keep the Val Marie hotel running. Breakfast is at seven a.m., and some nights the bar doesn’t close until two. This hotel is more than just a business: it’s the hub of the community, and Aline knows that closing the establishment would deal this small town a major blow. We follow Aline as she prepares for a big night, and we learn about the importance of the hotel from the people of Val Marie.

After the Fire: Small rural communities rely on their volunteer firefighters to handle any emergencies. While the Eastend Fire Department responds to its share of barn and grass fires, they are only a call away from tragedy. Rural first responders are usually first on the scene of grisly farm and motor vehicle accidents, and in a small community the victims are often friends and family. The toll it takes on these volunteers creates its own tragedy.

Les Fransaskois: The southern Prairies are overwhelmingly anglophone, yet a strong and vibrant francophone population persists in the small rural communities that dot this landscape. Gravelbourg is considered the centre of French language and culture in the region, and this short film hears from the Fransaskois (a term combining “French” and “Saskatchewan”) on the challenges and future of their unique prairie culture.


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