Local filmmaker shows darker side of Anne of Green Gables author

Stephen Dunn directs a new Heritage Minute about the struggles faced by author Lucy Maud Montgomery.

'I could really relate to the struggles she articulated in her journal entries,' says Stephen Dunn

Stephen Dunn's first feature film, Closet Monster, won Best Canadian Film at TIFF in 2015. (CBC Arts)

A St. John's filmmaker is shedding light on a darker side of the women behind the beloved Anne of Green Gables book series.

Stephen Dunn, the award-winning director of Closet Monster, a coming-of-age film about a gay teen in St. John's, directed a 60-second Heritage Minute about Lucy Maud Montgomery for Historica Canada.

The short profile highlights Montgomery's struggles with depression, sexism and rejection.

"[It's] an important part of her narrative, and is built deep into the DNA of the character of Anne," Dunn said in an email from Los Angeles.

There have been many requests over the years for a Lucy Maud Montgomery Heritage Minute according to Historica Canada, the company responsible for the short films. (Parks Canada)

The video stars Newfoundland and Labrador actress Meghan Greeley and features music by Polaris Prize winner Owen Pallett.

Though Dunn has screened his films at the Cannes Film Festival, won awards at the Toronto International Film Festival, and worked with luminaries like Gordon Pinsent, the Heritage Minute was his first project for television.

Dunn said he was approached by Historica Canada while finishing another video for the organization — the first Heritage Minute devoted to LTBGQ history. That will come out later this year.

"I was so moved by Montgomery's story of resilience … [we] began collaborating on the script that same week," he said.

'They say a woman shouldn't write'

The Minute shows scenes of Montgomery on the shores and plains in P.E.I., where the author and her famous literary creation, Anne, grew up.

"I am possessed body and soul by this depression," she says. "They say a woman shouldn't write. Some days I almost give up."

Dunn said he felt a deep kinship with Montgomery after exploring that side of her.

"Even though they were written 100 years ago, I could really relate to the struggles she articulated in her journal entries. Depression and rejection are faced on a daily basis for most artists," he said.

"She was a very complicated and tortured soul who channeled that into something that became a source of inspiration and empowerment for so many young women and men."