A documentary exploring how the southern Alberta town of Brooks has grown to become an international tapestry of cultures will be featured at the Red Deer Justice Film Festival, set for Jan. 17-19.
Screenings, many of which will include talks with special guest speakers, will be held in the Margaret Parsons Centre at Red Deer College, beginning Jan. 17 at 6 p.m.
Brooks – The City of 100 Hellos is set to be screened on Jan. 19. Screening time is 11 a.m.
The award-winning film – produced, written and directed by Brandy Yanchyk of Edmonton – gives audiences a fascinating glimpse into the lives of many of the new immigrants, refugees and temporary foreign workers that have moved to Brooks.
It’s been met with overwhelming success, striking a chord with audience after audience. “Sometimes you make a film that you think only you will care about, or that is very regional,” said Yanchyk. “This film has been resonating with a lot of people around the world which I find fascinating.
“As a filmmaker it’s a wonderful experience to find that something you care so much about is taken seriously. I don’t have any children, so my films are my babies,” she added with a laugh. “And with the energy and time I put into this, it basically took over my life for a year and a half. I also became very connected to the people in the film.”
The documentary explores the challenges immigrants face and looks at how residents of Brooks feel about the waves of immigration to their community.
Yanchyk is careful to represent both sides as well – views from some local residents feeling unhappy about the changing face of their town plus the perspectives of those who have arrived from a world away seeking a better life. “I also show the side of people in the town who think it’s a good thing – that it makes the town a bit more cultured and interesting.”
About 10 years ago XL Foods Lakeside Packers Inc. starting bringing over and employing about 2,000 workers from across the world.
The new immigrants have physically changed this traditional cattle ranching city. Schools teaching English as a second language have been popping up across town as well as different multicultural churches, a mosque and ethnic stores.
“All of a sudden you have a visible presence in your town that is completely different. Different language, different religion. They believe there are over 100 languages spoken in Brooks,” she said.
“The more of these films I do, the more I see similar themes. Some people are afraid of something that is totally unknown, and they are afraid of losing their culture.”
Meanwhile, Yanchyk has a passion for making films about the complexities of immigration, and she is thrilled at the tremendous reception Brooks The City of 100 Hellos is receiving. She’s already made several trips internationally to promote the film and attend screenings.
“Brooks is like an experiment in immigration, and that’s why I loved the story and the town so much. It’s a really good example of how people react to immigration – on all different levels.”
For more information about the Festival and a complete film schedule, check out www.justicefilmfestival.ca.