This Saturday, July 3rd at 5pm ET, we’ll be joined live by John Ware Reclaimed director Cheryl Foggo and No Ordinary Man co-directors Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt. They will discuss how they navigated telling stories that had rarely been told before and connecting that history to the present day lives of marginalised people.
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In the fall of 2020, we started to notice a trend in (particularly Canadian) documentaries: films that frame historical narratives about marginalised people.
Two standouts in this subgenre were John Ware Reclaimed (Cheryl Foggo) and No Ordinary Man (Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt), Canadian-produced films that tackle Black history in Alberta and transmasculine history respectively. Using creative techniques, these films present an alternative narrative from the one perpetuated in mainstream literature and media. They use nonfiction storytelling to reclaim history.
We discussed how both documentaries approach reclaiming history in a recent podcast episode.
This week marks the start of the 2021 Creative Nonfiction Workshop, a two-month workshop exploring boundary-pushing documentary cinema. We consider “creative nonfiction” to be documentary films that challenge what we traditionally think of documentary to be. They’re just as much about who’s telling the story, why, and how, then what the story actually is.
Our first live Zoom masterclass will be a conversation between filmmakers Cheryl Foggo, Aisling Chin-Yee, and Chase Joynt on Saturday, July 3rd, at 5pm ET. The conversation will revolve around the topic of reclaiming history in documentaries. It will last ninety minutes and attendees will get the chance to ask the speakers their own questions.
Scroll down to the bottom of this post for more information on how you can attend.
Who is Cheryl Foggo?
Cheryl Foggo is a Canadian author, filmmaker, screenwriter, and playwright.
In John Ware Reclaimed (2020), Foggo uses reenactment, animation, and music to explore the history of the Black diaspora on the Alberta prairies, focusing on the story of rancher John Ware and how it continues to resonate today.
This is what Foggo said when we interviewed her about the film:
I would say the bulk of my research and the output of my research, both creative, non-fiction, and journalistic, is based on the Black migration [to Canada] of 1910. I’ve written a book called Pourin’ Down Rain, which just had its 30th anniversary reprinting. It was the very first book I ever wrote, and it’s still alive because the content is still really not known. People outside of Alberta, and even people in Alberta, don’t know that we have Black history here. My next steps are around that. I’ve done a lot of work on that history, and I often tie that in with my creative works, as well.
I am peeling back the layers of Black history that was here before my family came in 1910. I’ve written about Annie Saunders, who was a Black entrepreneur in Southern Alberta, before John Ware came, running three businesses in Pincher Creek, Alberta. I think this history is so interesting and so important, and just not well enough known.
Who are Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt?
Chase Joynt is Assistant Professor of Gender Studies at the University of Victoria. In 2020, he co-directed his first feature with Aisling Chin-Yee, No Ordinary Man.
Aisling Chin-Yee is an award-winning producer, writer, and director based in Montreal, Canada and Los Angeles, California. Her first narrative feature was The Rest of Us (2019). She has produced a number of films, including Rhymes for Young Ghouls (2013).
No Ordinary Man rewrites the narrative around 20th-century trans jazz musician Billy Tipton by auditioning and interviewing transmasculine actors, exploring how Tipton’s legacy relates to their lives today.
This is what Joynt and Chin-Yee said when we interviewed them about the film:
As a trans man interested in trans history, I’ve always been interested in who controls the story. The story of Billy Tipton’s life has always been controlled by the mainstream media. This project was an incredible opportunity to approach Tipton’s life from a trans perspective.Chase Joynt
We did some digging to try to find any moving images of Billy Tipton, and there weren’t any. We knew that if we were going to write scenes or create a representation of Billy on screen, it would actually be the first time anyone would see his likeness portrayed. We wanted to use the process that an actor has to go through [to get into character because it is similar to] the process we’re trying to do in this film, which is asking, what was Billy thinking and feeling in that moment? If we put [his] words in the hands of a variety of different transmasculine artists and actors and activists, how will they come to interpret that story?Aisling Chin-Yee
How can I watch John Ware Reclaimed and No Ordinary Man?
Ticket holders to the 2021 Creative Nonfiction Workshop will be given screening access to both films. Unfortunately tickets are currently closed for the workshop. If you sign up for Seventh Row updates, we’ll keep you posted on if that changes and on any future events.
John Ware Reclaimed is currently available for free on the NFB website in Canada. It’s also available to rent on iTunes in most English-speaking countries, including the US and UK.
No Ordinary Man is currently available to rent on VOD in Canada. It will be out in the US on July 16th. It is still seeking distribution internationally.
How can I attend the masterclass?
Only 2021 Creative Nonfiction Workshop ticket holders have access to the masterclass, and unfortunately, ticket sales are now closed.
However, we’ve set aside a small allotment of free tickets to this one masterclass, exclusively for students and low income people. You will get access to the Zoom call tomorrow, but none of the other benefits of being a workshop ticket holders (access to the films, a free ebook, access to a recording of the masterclass after the fact, etc).
If you are a student or a low income person and you want to attend the masterclass tomorrow, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll let you know if we can accommodate you.