In her film, Fallen Heroes, Calgary based co-producer Karen Storwick states she wants to generate “a surge of pride in Canadians in support of our forces and their exceptional achievements” throughout the war in Afghanistan.
Mission accomplished—at least judging by the applause and the praise offered from audience members afterwards-- following a 30 minute portion of the still unfinished film shown to approximately 45 people at ANAVETS 283 Hall, 3584 Portage Avenue, on June 28.
The evening event sponsored by the Royal Military Institute of Manitoba, began with an hour long power point presentation by Ms. Storwick.
Ms. Storwick, and her partner, Robert Curtin, operate Combined Forces Production Collaborative-- a group of leading professionals with, as their website says, a mission to bring our history to life in an engaging way.
“In 2012, Karen was awarded the Veteran’s Affairs Commendation Medal for her work in the development of the Mural of Honour and the preservation of Canadian history in Italy,” says her bio.
“In 2017, Karen was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for her work to honour veterans of Canada.”
The film focusses on the Ramp Ceremony.
“It was conceived to honour the men and women who served and sacrificed their lives in Afghanistan and to raise awareness with Canadians about the rituals of the Ramp Ceremony and Highway of Heroes that developed out of the heartfelt need to say a final goodbye to the fallen as they were repatriated to Canada,” says the film’s website.
“These were ceremonies created by the people for the people and arouse from a heartfelt need to pay fitting tribute to our fallen.
“This story touches every soldier, sailor and aviator, and their families, across the country and must be told. The Ramp Ceremony and their Highway of Heroes showed the world what Canadians are all about. It was the Canadian way.”
“I think that the film commemorates the soldiers who, in my mind, are heroes the moment their boots hit the ground,” Anita Cenerini, the 2018 National Silver Cross mother, an honour given by the Royal Canadian Legion, said afterwards.
Her son, Thomas Welch, died by suicide in 2004 on returning home from Afghanistan.
“It commemorates those soldiers who take the task of fighting for the freedoms of our country knowing that their lives are at risk,” Ms. Cenerini commented.
“That’s what makes them a hero.”
Ms. Storwick said she wanted to bring an awareness to the audience with this film, and the challenges she and Mr. Curtin had making the film-- and the reasons why it’s important to make this film.
“The film was originally about the ceremony in Afghanistan after the first four Canadian casualties, soldiers of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, on April 17, 2002 with the friendly fire incident at Tarnak Farms.”
While flying an F-16, American pilot Harry Schmidt dropped a 227-kilogram laser-guided bomb on the Canadian position, says Wikipedia.
“As we were researching that story we realized that we had to tell a bigger story,’’ Ms. Storwick said.
“So, of course, we wanted to tell the story of the Highway of Heroes.
“One of the things that inspired us is to see the unique way in which Canadians have expressed their remembrance of fallen soldiers in Afghanistan, and the very unique outpouring of love in these ceremonies and rituals that were developed in a grassroots way in Afghanistan and on the home front here in Canada.”
She added that the documentary, which includes cinematic recreations, is about 75 percent completed with the remaining 25 percent of filming to be done this summer.
She and Mr. Curtin will spend the winter editing the film.
“So we can premiere it on April 17, 2023,” Ms. Storwick said.
“Because we’re a Calgary team, we did the filming in Calgary and Edmonton, where we re-created the Highway of Heroes, and we did some filming in Vancouver and drone filming across the country with various members of the families of the fallen as part of our tribute.”
The film will premiere in Edmonton and then Calgary.
“Then, we hope to take it across the country,” said Ms. Storwick.
“One of the advantages we have, because we are the content producers of the Mission Afghanistan content exhibit, is that we can actually tag onto the promotional wave of that exhibit. So, this film will travel with the exhibit, which will tour across the country for the next five years before becoming a permanent gallery in Calgary in a military museum.”
Most important to the filmmakers is to help Canadians understand this very recent history, she said.
“There’s so much to be proud of in the way we responded to these losses, and to the families-- the way that we supported the serving military through this experience of this war in Afghanistan. And, also, to see ourselves as supporters of veterans and veterans causes. Let’s not forget that we were once there for our soldiers in Afghanistan.
“This is how Canadians support our military.”
Meanwhile, as Ms. Cenerini commented, “How the soldiers die, or when they die,” doesn’t define whether or not that soldier is a hero.
“They are a hero the moment they face adversity risking their lives to do so with courage and strength,” she said.
“So, it’s really important to me that we recognize these men and women in the military who take on that task, who are ready to go at any moment. This film is a way to bring that awareness to our country, to show that sacrifices are made every day by military personnel.”