It’s been almost 25 years since Anishinaabe activist Dudley George was killed by a police sniper during a land protest, but most days it feels like a wound that has never healed. For some, the raw emotions surrounding the events that led to Dudley’s death are still simmering under the surface. Talking out loud about the “Ipperwash Crisis” feels like ripping a Band-Aid off a wound, exposing a darkness underneath.
George vs. Harris is a true-crime documentary that peels away the layers of a complex geopolitical story to reveal a simple tale about family and community. At the centre is a wrongful death lawsuit filed in 1996 by Dudley’s siblings against Ontario Premier Mike Harris, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Crown. As a driving force behind both the lawsuit and the Ipperwash Inquiry, Dudley’s older brother Sam offers an intimate glimpse into a family in turmoil and a small community deeply divided over the events that led to the shooting. Equal parts cinéma vérité footage, stock footage and legal exhibits, and edited in the vein of Netflix’s true-crime series The Keepers, this film exposes how the legal system and the media continue to divide and distract from the truth about why Dudley died.
First greenlit as a student project in Sheridan College’s Advanced Television & Film program in 2002, the film continued after the Ipperwash Inquiry was called in 2004. It grew to include original archival research, stock footage, and photos, and between 60 and 100 hours of new footage (now old enough to be considered archival footage). Further filming is required to update the story for the present day. However, forward movement on this project should likely be grassroots, focused on Sam’s family, Dudley’s other siblings, those involved in the 1995 occupation of Ipperwash Provincial Park, and finally, the wider Kettle & Stony Point community. This may mean the film becomes participatory, with those with a significant stake in the story collaborating on its content.
Status: Unfinished; In production; Funding: Self-Funded, Ontario Arts Council, Indiegogo Crowdfunding; Future Funding Ideas: Broadcast licenses and film grants