Manitoba

L.A. documentary maker in Winnipeg to help shed light on MMIW

Los Angeles based producer and director Leslie Owen hadn't heard of Winnipeg when she first came across a news story about Tina Fontaine and the growing number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

Feature-length documentary to include story of Tina Fontaine, Bear Clan Patrol, director says

From left Steven Priovolos, James Favel and Leslie Owen. Owen and Priovolos are in Winnipeg working on a documentary about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. (Courtesy Leslie Owen )

Los Angeles-based producer and director Leslie Owen hadn't heard of Winnipeg when she first came across a news story about Tina Fontaine and the growing number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

It didn't take long for her to realize it was a subject she wanted to help do something about. 

"I started looking into it and researching it and I just couldn't believe it, and that's when I thought, 'You know what, I want to do a story on this,'" said Owen. 

Since then, Owen has been piecing together a feature-length documentary that explores the issue. 

Based on her research, she decided Manitoba was a good place to start. She made her first trip to Winnipeg last fall. 

"I thought that this would be a good place to come to just to understand the problem better and even to see if the community would be open to me sharing their story," said Owen. "Because I feel it's a story that needed to be heard beyond just Canada."

Owen is in Winnipeg again this week with the project's director of photography Steven Priovolos. The two have also been working with a team based in Winnipeg. 

Owen wants to wait until the documentary is complete before she goes into a lot of detail about what's included. 

"What I can say is there are three stories," said Owen. "If you sort of weave them together, they sort of paint a picture of what's happening across Canada."

Owen admitted part of the documentary will include the death of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, whose body was pulled from the Red River on Aug. 17, 2014.

It will also feature Winnipeg's community group the Bear Clan Patrol. 

"They came and walked with us on Friday to get some footage of things we do and things like that," said Bear Clan co-ordinator James Favel, adding it was startling to hear the story had travelled as far as Los Angeles.  

Favel is part of a group that helped resurrect the Bear Clan last July. The volunteers patrol Winnipeg's streets Thursday through Sunday and offer help where they can. 

"I guess we're being, sort of, put up as a ... plausible solution to helping or at least an aid in the fight against our women going missing," Favel said. 

Owen hopes to have the documentary completed by the fall, at which point she will focus on how and where it's distributed. 

"I want this to be pure," said Owen. "I want this to be a vessel for this community to be able to get their story out, and so I want to actually finish it before I put it out there." 

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