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The Great Salish Heist highlights Chemainus Theatre film festival

Cast includes renowned Canadian and international actors

Three critically-acclaimed films are being screened Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9 at the Chemainus Theatre.

The mini film festival commences Friday at 7 p.m. with Les Filles du Roi (The King’s Daughters) presented by Urban Ink, Corey Payette and Julie McIsaac.

Haida Modern – the art and activism of Robert Davidson, a film by Charles Wilkinson, Shore Films and Optic Nerve Films, plays Saturday, March 9 at 2 p.m.

And the festival feature is The Great Salish Heist Saturday, March 9 at 7 p.m., the first-ever Indigenous heist film produced in association with Orca Cove Media and Less Bland Productions Inc.

The Great Salish Heist made its Canadian premiere at the Victoria Film Festival recently. It was filmed in the Duncan area with cooperation from the Cowichan Tribes and includes Canadian and international stars Darrell Dennis, Graham Greene, Ashley Callingbull, Tricia Helfer and David Lewis in the cast.

Dennis, who’s originally from Alkali Lake outside of Williams Lake, did additional duties as director and writer.

He has long been involved in the film and TV industry, including stints in New York and Toronto.

“I am currently back and forth between Los Angeles and B.C.,” Dennis said. “I’ve got to go where the work takes me.

“I’ve been pretty busy. I’ve had lead roles in a number of Canadian TV shows and done a lot of guest stars. Recently, I’ve been able to be a lead in feature films in my home province of B.C.

“I’ve gone through a lot of struggles over my entire career. When it’s your passion and you love it so deeply, you get past that.”

With The Great Salish Heist, he collaborated with Leslie Bland and Harold C. Joe of Less Bland Productions.

“They had this idea,” Dennis pointed out. “I took their idea and basically rewrote the entire script. As I was rewriting the script, they got me involved as director as well.”

The story follows Steve Joe, played by Dennis, a traditional archaeologist for the Moquahat people who believes the bad luck in his community is a result of the displacement of sacred artifacts. He rallies a diverse group from the Rez to hatch a plan to break into a heavily-guarded museum and reclaim the artifacts.

Steve reluctantly partners with a Russian gangster, Yuri, and his boss Vladimir to fund the heist. As the team plans its daring mission, Steve grapples with the dilemma of whether to give sacred objects to the gangsters. The stakes heighten as they gain unexpected allies and attempt to execute a cunning plan.

Dennis said The Great Salish Heist was filmed two years ago.

“Everything went pretty quickly by filmmaking standards,” he added.

“My involvement to the last day of filming, the whole process probably took under four years which is kind of unheard of.”

Dennis is proud of the final result and having a hand in all aspects makes it even more satisfying.

“For my entire career, I think I’ve worn a lot of different hats and I think you have to,” he conceded.

“As the director and the script writer, you feel a unique amount of responsibility to the other actors and the crew. I’ve got to be all these things to everybody else while concentrating on my own work.”

The Victoria Film Festival premiere of the show went very well and Dennis is looking forward to additional feedback once more people see it.

After Chemainus, the theatrical schedule includes: Cinecenta at the University of Victoria on March 15, the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre in Duncan March 24, the Star Cinema in Sidney during mid-April on dates to be announced and the Vancouver International Film Festival Centre in late April.

“At some point fairly soon, I want to see it with an audience,” said Dennis.

“For the first screening, there’s a lot of excitement across the country. People are dying to see this movie.”

Another movie with the same team, shot all over Vancouver Island, including the Duncan area again, is in post-production now and Dennis is looking forward to the release of Sweet Summer Powwow sometime next year.

Les Filles du Roi that opens the festival is the powerful story of a young girl, Kateri, and her brother Jean-Baptiste whose lives are disrupted upon the arrival of the king’s daughters in New France (now Montreal) in 1665. They forge an unlikely relationship with the young fille Marie-Jeanne Lespérance – whose dream of a new life is more complicated than she could have imagined. Over the course of a year, Mohawk, French and English journeys collide, setting the stage for the Canada we know today.

It was the winner of the award for best music at the Hamilton International Film Festival.

Haida Modern documents the life and times of visionary artist Robert Davidson. Everyone is touched by Davidson’s work on the west coast. It’s on the walls, the phone boxes, T-shirts, jewelry, tattoos and more. Haida Modern follows Davidson to his native Haida Gwaii, Alaska, Vancouver, San Francisco, New York and Austin, Texas. He’s seen at work in his studio bringing the knowledge of the old masters into the 21st Century. The story is filled with hope and magic and the breathtaking beauty of the natural world that inspires Davidson’s work.

Tickets for the festival are available by clicking here.

The Playbill Dining Room will be open on Friday and Saturday evenings before the film screenings, serving the classic buffet menu.

Don Bodger

About the Author: Don Bodger

I've been a part of the newspaper industry since 1980 when I began on a part-time basis covering sports for the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle.
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