HUMBOLDT, YORKTON — A documentary film discussing the efforts to recover in the wake of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash has won an award at a Yorkton-based film festival.
Humboldt: The New Season, a co-production between Regina-based Prairie Cat Productions and Winnipeg-based Frank Digital, won the Ruth Shaw Award for Best in Saskatchewan at the most recent Yorkton Film Festival Golden Sheaf Awards.
The film picks up as the team, the families, the community and the province tries to recover after the April 6, 2018 bus crash that resulted in the death of 16 people and the injury of 13. It follows players, parents and coaches as they discuss what they’re doing to move forward, and the way the crash changed their lives.
Lucas Friesen, a co-director, said that it is especially meaningful to win the Ruth Shaw Award because this is a Saskatchewan story, and one that shook the entire province.
“Specifically in Saskatchewan, it felt like everyone, no matter who you were, no matter where in Saskatchewan you lived, everyone had a connection to the accident.”
For Friesen, it was a personal story, because of his own connection. Mark Cross, an Broncos assistant coach for the 2017-18 season, was one of Friesen’s closest friends. He said that it wasn’t about him, but instead making sure the families wanted him to tell that story.
“Being a filmmaker, I knew from the get-go and soon after I needed to tell this story. It wasn’t just up to me, it was up to all of the other people, there were over 20 other people on the bus and I was only going to do it if they were okay with me telling the story. Thankfully everyone was, and I am extremely grateful for that.”
It can be a difficult film to watch, especially for people with connections to the Humboldt area, and Friesen said that for him it was the healing journey everyone was on.
“It was a huge undertaking. I think, just emotionally for myself for sure. Another reason I wanted to make the film and go through the process was that it was a healing journey for myself as well. Just having a chance to meet so many of the people that Mark coached and worked with in his final years just meant a ton to me and it gave me one last chance to get close to him. It was a tough emotional experience but I’m thankful for every minute of it.”
Being an emotional experience, the film was also nominated in the Mental Health category, and Friesen said highlighting the importance of mental health when dealing with grief was something they wanted to bring to the forefront.
“Almost all of us have been through grief in some regard, and any time someone goes through that you want a support system for yourself, and you want to take care of your mental health. This tragedy was different because it was on such a large scale and it was so horrific… Like Tyler Smith, one of the survivors said, it’s okay to not be okay.”
The film also highlights the rare positives that stemmed from the crash, including the Logan Boulet effect, which was a significant increase in the amount of people signing their organ donor cards – over 100,000 people – in the wake of Boulet having signed his organ donor card and his family having donated his organs. Friesen also said the support was vitally important for the families, and they’re grateful to the way Canada rallied behind Humboldt.
“Right from the start, the response from the entire country and even beyond Canada was truly remarkable and amazing, and like something we had never seen before… I know lots of the families we talked to, they were beyond thankful for the support from complete strangers a lot of the time. Personally, I was grateful for that support just in terms of Mark and the support his family got from so many people. It was really amazing and incredible.”
Friesen said that the recognition from the Yorkton Film Festival means a lot, and he’s especially happy that they were able to keep recognizing film overall at this time.
“Myself being a Saskatchewan filmmaker, I’ve come to enjoy going to Yorkton and really respect the hard work that they put into it, and what a great event it is. Just the fact that they found a way to make the event still happen this year in spite of all the restrictions with COVID-19, I think that means a ton to all the filmmakers.”
It’s especially important right now as the film industry recovers from the COVID-19 restrictions, and Friesen said that like many people, the pandemic slowed them down, and he’s grateful that the industry continues to have the support of the Yorkton Film Festival.
“It’s giving filmmakers the chance to get their work watched by an audience, and engage with an audience.”