About This Program
Three narrative shorts and a documentary feature share a Canadian connection.
Director(s): Alison MacDonald
Narrative Short, Canada, 2021, 4 min, Color, Student Project - Sault College, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada
A visual poem that provides space for reflection on the quieter moments in life, where we pause to think, to feel, and to breathe.
Great Lakes Connection: The creator/actor is from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. The film was shot in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
Director(s): Osric Chau
Narrative Short, Canada, 2021, 14 min, Color
Happily married without kids and intending to focus on his career, Ryan struggles with the news of an unplanned pregnancy and his wife Nicole’s decision to keep the baby. When the doctor diagnoses his wife with cancer, it leaves Ryan wanting nothing more than to have a child with Nicole.
One Over Capacity
Director(s): Michael Zamanis
Narrative Short, Canada, 2020, 6 min, Color
Don and Betty must reduce the company's headcount by one staff member through unorthodox methods.
Great Lakes Connection: The film was shot in North York, Ontario. All of the actors and crew hail from the greater Toronto area.
Mr. Emancipation: The Walter Perry Story
Director: Preston Chase
Documentary Feature, Canada, 2020, 62 min, Color, First-Time Filmmaker
Mr. Emancipation is the story of Walter L. Perry’s determination to put on a celebration that would transcend divisions of race and class. He staged an Emancipation Day festival that was where everyone wanted to be. Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr., and Jesse Owens all headed there because, as civil rights activist Dick Gregory said, "The largest Juneteenth celebration was not in America, it was in Windsor, Canada."
A celebration of ending slavery sounds grim. What Walter Perry organized was the exact opposite of grim.
Imagine a miles-long parade. The smell of soul food. Whirling carnival rides. There was live music, talent shows, and even the Miss Sepia beauty pageant (the first international beauty pageant for Black women).
From 1936 until 1967, that’s how Walter Perry celebrated freedom. Perry and his celebration got caught up in the overheated racial politics, sabotage, and race riots of 1967 in Detroit. His event never recovered from that year and, shortly afterward, Walter Perry died. But the spirit of Mr. Emancipation still lives on.
Great Lakes connection:
The film documents the history of a festival in Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan.
Cast & Crew:
Director: Preston Chase
Writer: Preston Chase
Producer: The Walter Perry Freedom Foundation
Preston William Chase is a seventh-generation African-Canadian and a descendant of William Parker. Parker escaped slavery in Maryland, and went on to play a key role in the Christiana Riots in Pennsylvania. It was his friend, the great Fredrick Douglass who convinced Parker to take refuge in Canada.
Born to a single mother in the Black community of downtown Windsor, Ontario, Canada, Chase went on to become a high school teacher. He is also the family historian and a passionate advocate for greater awareness of a historic Black community, time has forgotten.
It was a desire for everyone to know the story of his great-great-uncle Walter Perry that led Chase to pick up a camera and begin recording the stories about him from the elders in his community.
Mister Emancipation: The Walter Perry story is the result of twenty years of research and five years of production.
Directing a film is the last thing I ever expected to do. I have never done anything like this before. I am a school teacher, not a filmmaker. It's just that I really wanted to tell this story of one man who once had big dreams, who somehow managed to bring people together across race and class divides.
I grew up in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. It’s a blue collar city just south of Detroit, with a Black community that dates back to the days of the Underground Railroad. Times were always tough in the community. But there was one thing that people could be proud of, the largest Emancipation Day celebration in the world.
And the man who made it happen was my great-great-uncle Walter Perry. I grew up hearing stories about the festival. It was much later that my godparents told me stories about Uncle Walt.
For years now, I have wanted to share those stories. I mean, here was a guy who came from nothing, and sold newspapers to make ends meet, who somehow charmed city leaders, and sponsors and staged an event that drew top sports talent, American civil rights leaders, politicians, and musicians to Windsor.
He literally put Windsor’s Black community on the map and made everyone feel proud.
I wanted to capture that and share it, especially now, when we seem more divided than ever, it’s possible to reach out, get along, and have fun.
Over the past five years, I spent many hours with the elders in my community, recording their recollections of Uncle Walt, and the impact his festival had on them, and how it shaped their lives. I sifted through their old photos which capture so many joyous moments. I did it just in time, we’re losing that generation, and their voices are still relevant today.
Screenings/Awards: United States
Worldfest - Houston International Film & Video Festival (Houston, TX), April 15, 2020, World Premiere, Platinum Remi Award
Flickers Rhode Island International Film Festival (Providence, RI), July 27, 2020, Rhode Island Premiere, Semi-Finalist
Trinity Detroit International Film Festival (Detroit, MI), August 20, 2020, Michigan Premiere, Best Documentary
Urban Film Festival (Miami, FL), September 4, 2020, Florida Premiere, Finalist
Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival (Cleveland, OH), September 12, 2020, Ohio Premiere
The March on Washington Film Festival (Washington, DC), September 21, 2020, Capital Premiere, Feature Selection
Franklin International Indie Film Festival (Franklin, TN), September 23, 2020, Tennessee Premiere
Charlotte Film Festival (Charlotte, NC), September 23, 2020, North Carolina Premiere
Oakland International Film Festival (Oakland, CA), September 27, 2020, California Premiere
Reading Film Festival (Reading, PA), October 8, 2020, Pennsylvania Premiere
Hollywood South Urban Film Festival (Atlanta, GA), October 2, 2020, Georgia Premiere
Louisville International Festival of Film (Louisville, KY), November 5, 2020, Kentucky Premiere
20th Kansas International Film Festival (Overland Park, KS), November 6, 2020, Kansas Premiere
Gary International Black Film Festival (Gary, IN), November 10, 2020, Indiana Premiere, Judges Award Best Documentary
Soul West Fest (Phoenix, AZ), November 6, 2020, Arizona Premiere, Audience Award for Best Feature
Denton Black Film Festival (Denton, TX), January 27, 2021, Denton Premiere, Finalist
New York Movie Awards (New York City, NY), March 7, 2021, New York Premiere, Best Documentary
Chicago Independent Film Festival (Chicago, IL), March 17, 2021, Illinois Premiere, Best First Time Director
North Beach American Film Festival (North Beach, MD), June 25, 2021, Maryland Premiere
Sacramento International Film Festival (Sacramento, CA), June 17, 2021, Sacramento Premiere
Lunenburg Doc Festival (Lunenburg, NS), September 24, 2020, Nova Scotia Premiere, Semi-Finalist
Forest City Film Festival (London, ON), October 17, 2020, Ontario Premiere
Silverwave Film Festival (Fredericton, NB), December 1, 2020, New Brunswick Premiere
Winnipeg Real to Reel Film Festival (Winnipeg, MB), February 14, 2021, Manitoba Premiere
Montreal Independent Film Festival (Montreal, QC), March 20, 2021, Quebec Premiere
Yorkton Film Festival (Yorkton, SK), May 27, 2021, Saskatchewan Premiere, Best Documentary for History & Biography
Screenings/Awards: Africa, Asia, UK
The Jozi Film Festival (Sandton, South Africa), September 17, 2020, South African Premiere
Garden Route International Film Festival (Western Cape, South Africa), September 21, 2020, Western Cape Premiere, Semi-Finalist
Rapport Film Festival (London, United Kingdom), September 21, 2020, UK Premiere
Cult Valley Global Cinefest (Bengal, India), February 28, 2021, Asian Premiere, Best Educational Film