This real-life whodunit examines the mountains of evidence from a contentious police operation that went tragically wrong; one that politicians, police officers, and witnesses have spent the last 25 years accusing each other in an effort to cover up.
The official press release from the Ontario Provincial Police claimed officers were “returning fire” when a riot squad and sniper team confronted a group of Indigenous land protectors in the dark. Twenty-five years after the “Ipperwash Crisis,” we dig deep into the skeletons unearthed by the public inquiry tasked to investigate the controversial police shooting death of Anthony “Dudley” George at Ipperwash Provincial Park. The deeper we dig, the more past, present, and future violently collide.
This limited six-part, hour-long documentary series uses a true-crime format that is driven by first-hand accounts of some of the key players, including the 150+ witnesses, lawyers and family members who advocated for and participated in the Ipperwash Inquiry. Sit-down interviews drive the story forward with incredible amounts of detail, enhanced by excerpts of testimony and audio-visual exhibits from the Inquiry hearings.
Provocative without being sensational, this series is targeted to a wide audience. It explores the known facts of all sides of the “Ipperwash Crisis,” searching for truth in a conflict that pits colonial views about natural resources and the law against Indigenous ways of being.
Audio and video exhibits, stock footage, newspaper headlines, archival photos, data visualization, and simple recreations help to tell the “colonized” version of the story, while spectacular aerial shots, cinema verite footage and brilliantly coloured animations help tell the alternate “de-colonized” perspective. The two opposing styles are tied together through maps and counter-mapping; satellite imagery is used frequently, with words in the Anishinaabemowin language overlaid on top.
Ultimately, this is a social and cultural documentary masked as a true-crime series. The deeper we dig into the evidence of a complex case of wrongful death, the more we learn about how North America was colonized and about the entangled relationship between the Indigenous people and settlers who call it home.
This series swings back and forth between tense, factual storytelling with a grim tone and slower-paced Indigenous storytelling with a hopeful tone. Over six episodes, it connects the dots between history and present-day by bouncing between “white man’s law” and the lies told in the mainstream media, and the Indigenous version of the truth. Episode 1 is a backgrounder to the crime, while Episode 2 explains how the family’s civil lawsuit influenced the government to call a public inquiry. Episode 3 explores the Indigenous witnesses’ testimony, while Episode 4 focuses on the evidence of the politicians who witnessed the infamous “Dining Room Meeting.” Episode 5 pivots towards the statements of the barrage of police officers who participated in the fatal confrontation, while Episode 6 revisits controversial evidence the mainstream media missed while covering the hearings.
Maynard “Sam” George and his family value laughter and humour as a coping mechanism. Although the Kettle & Stony Point First Nation community has been through layers of trauma associated with land loss and the shooting death of Sam’s brother, Dudley, the family is determined to bring healing to those that still may be suffering. They believe the truth about the shooting will help the community to heal and have invited filmmaker Monica Virtue into their home for the past 17 years -– six of those filming with Sam before he passed away from cancer -– in the hope the story will reach a wide audience.
Status: Unfinished; In development; Funding: Self-Funded, Ontario Arts Council, Indiegogo Crowdfunding; Future Funding Ideas: Content licenses and/or grants