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The Plex in Port Elgin saw a large audience fill the stands to view the Ontario Visual Heritage Project’s three part documentary titled “The Bruce” May 12.

Hub Staff

Accounts of the life and land of the Ojibway people up until the early 1850s were told during the first of three episodes of “The Bruce,” an Ontario Visual Heritage Project during a screening at the Plex, May 12.

The stands of the arena were filled, with VIP seating on the floor, to watch the 50 minute documentary, “The Fishing Chiefs,” that told of the thriving Ojibway people who prospered on what is today known as Bruce County, with local elders and storytellers explaining the ways of the Ojibway, their fishing habits and their lifestyle prior to European settlers and the Canadian government taking over their land and depleting their fishing resources and land quantity.

Ross Lamont, head of the documentary steering committee said the idea of the three part documentary was not to tell every detail of what happened in Bruce County, but to tell stories that are representative of the people.

“Not everybody is a history nerd like some of us but we want history to be interesting,” said Lamont, adding that the Saugeen Ojibway people were here long before what many have been taught through textbooks.

“We really do appreciate the level of engagement and involvement that the Saugeen Ojibway people have had in this, their community leaders, their political leadership, their elders,” he said, adding that various spokespeople have worked with the committee to ensure the integrity of the information in the documentary and that it does tell a story of which more people should be aware.

“It’s our sincere hope that the people of Bruce County, and the people around the province when this gets seen by a wider audience,” Lamont paused for ruckus applause, “really do have a greater appreciation for the view of the Ojibway people that were here before,” Lamont said.

The project, which saw funds from an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant worth almost $140,000, and many other local donations; was created with help from a steering committee that included members of the Bruce County Historical Society (BCHS) who worked with Producer Yvonne Drebert and Director Zach Melnick to find the right stories.

Steering committee member, author, and member of the BCHS, Robin Hilborn, who makes a cameo appearance in an Eby’s Barbour Shop scene, was on set throughout the making of the documentary and created a companion book about the making of the documentary.

Part 1 of The Bruce will premiere on TVO on August 12 at 8 p.m. and August 17 at 7 p.m.

Prior to the May 12 screening at the Plex, Hilborn said he had been anticipating his first viewing of Part 1 since May of 2016 when a brain storming session on histories and possible topics had taken place, followed by a long period of research.

In March 2017, Director Zach Melnick presented a 150 page script which was approved by the BCHS, followed by the filming of 25 enactments using 150 volunteer actors. “It’s really quite exciting to take a film script, which I've never done before, and figure out how to do a book based on the script,” said Hilborn. The Bruce companion book will be available at the second screening of Parts 2 and 3 which will take place June 2.

Parts 2 and 3 of the three part documentary will be air on TVO later in August. Part 2 will air on August 19 at 8 p.m. and on August 24 at 7 p.m.; and Part 3 on August 26 at 8 p.m. and on August 31 at 7 p.m.

The second part will cover the mid 1850s until the 1900s with Part 3 covering 1900s and onward.

ross lamont

Ross Lamont, head of project steering community and member of the Bruce County Heritage Society, introduced speakers and the film shown at the Plex, May 12.


Floor level VIPs included local leaders, elders, volunteers, storytellers and financiers.

lester anoquot

Saugeen First Nation Chief Lester Anoquot spoke to the crowd before the premiere.

irene howe

President of the Bruce County Heritage Society, Irene Howe, before the premiere.

Yvonne Drebert Zach Melnick

Producer Yvonne Drebert and Director Zach Melnick before the premiere. They admitted they had never seen a bigger crowd for one of their documentaries.

robin hilborn

Local author and historian Robin Hilborn proudly held The Bruce companion book before the screening took place, May 12 at the Plex.

Aaron Keeshig Grant Jones

Ojibway fisherman Aaron Keeshig (left) and Grant Jones served up whitefish following Part 1 of The Bruce which dedicated a large portion of the story to the Ojibway fishing habits.

the bruce pan

A panoramic view of the Plex for the screening of Part 1 of The Bruce May 12.


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