A documentary produced by a St. Clair College administrator is in the running for several national film festival awards, including best Canadian short documentary.
Irene Moore Davis, manager of continuing education and English language programs, was an executive producer last year for The North Was Our Canaan, a documentary chronicling the importance of the Sandwich Town neighborhood to local Black history.
The film has been nominated for three awards at the International Black and Diversity Film Festival for Best Director, Best Short Documentary and Best Canadian Short Documentary.
“It’s designed to call attention to how important Sandwich was to the Underground Railroad, how important it was in terms of the North American anti-slavery movement as a whole,” said Moore Davis.
The film features interviews with local historians and descendants of those who escaped to Sandwich. It also shares stories about other aspects of the area’s Black history, including the first Black pioneer families who settled there.
For many years, Moore Davis has been involved in recording and promoting local Black history, serving as the president of the Essex County Black Historical Research Society and publishing several books on the subject.
Moore Davis said her involvement in the film began after a suggestion by her friend and co-executive producer Heidi Jacobs.
“One day, Heidi came and listened while I was giving a speech about Mary Miles-Bibb and about local Black women in the Underground Railroad era. She was so taken with it, she decided that we should work together on a documentary that highlights some of these stories.”
The film was also made possible by grant funding from SSHRC through the University of Windsor and the direction of local filmmaker Anushray Singh.
Moore Davis said the film allows these stories to be shared in a way that community members can understand.
“Historians have a tendency to speak to each other in terms that only we can understand. If we want to share this knowledge with a greater cross-section of people, we’ve got to learn how to make it palatable and accessible to them.”
According to Moore Davis, viewers have responded well to the film. “They loved learning about the history from people who are descendants or storytellers affiliated with the history.”
She also said elementary and secondary school teachers who previewed the film are excited to show it to their students.
The North Was Our Canaan is also planned to be the start of a series of films meant to explore Windsor and Essex County’s Black history.
“We’re really excited to see some recognition in the form of awards for this short documentary.”
The winners of the International Black and Diversity Film Festival will be announced on June 26, 2021.
The documentary can be viewed it at https://collections.uwindsor.ca/omeka-s/nwoc/page/video
- Tyler Clapp