Exploring the sticky, golden universe of Canada’s quintessential national emblem, this documentary by Montreal filmmakers Lori Braun and Hugh John Murray showcases the culture and politics behind an industry recovering from the biggest heist in agricultural history.
Centred around the ongoing investigation of the 2011 disappearance of an estimated $18M of maple syrup from a storage warehouse, the program examines the role the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers plays in production, from industrial-scale operations to home-grown, family-run sugar shack businesses. Many local producers argue that the Federation's strict regulations prevent small-scale producers to survive in the business.
'There is a universe of Maple Syrup that most Canadians don't know about, which includes a syrup underworld' - Writer/Producer Lori Braun
Inspired by late-night comedians' uptake of the heist story, it was a piece on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart which piqued Director Murray's interest. "I'm willing to bet that the $18M maple heist is the best PR campaign the maple syrup industry inadvertently launched."
Braun and Murray balance some of the more sinister aspects of their story with humour and whimsy through historical re-enactments. Murray explains that from a film production standpoint, these proved to the be most challenging to create on an independent budget.
"I remembered Bjork's video Human Behaviour which also employed the rear projection screen technique, and so I thought it would lend the program a theatrical quality. The theft itself - the story - is somewhat surreal, so staging our actors with minimal props and iconic images from the theft projected behind them really worked. We used this technique with the historical elements as well - very tongue in cheek, I might add."
Braun says that there is a natural tension and comedy that results from bringing a centuries-old iconic tradition into the current marketplace. "The more we shed a light on maple syrup the more unusual and intriguing it becomes. But maple humour is a great way to enter into the more serious subject matters of real political and economic concerns in the industry."
Maple Syrup Mayhem airs July 26 at 7 p.m. on CBC Television