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B4 - PRAIRIE POST - Friday, October 28, 2011

Brooks Documentary looks at immigration’s effects BY ROSE SANCHEZ —

Filmmaker Brandy Yanchyk had to edit more than 80 hours of footage about how immigration has changed and challenged a cowboy town. The 40-minute documentary, titled Brooks,

The City of 100 Hellos, made its debut Oct. 21 by invitation only, and again twice more on Oct.22 when the public was welcome to attend. The film offers a chance for viewers to get inside the

lives of immigrants who now live and work in Brooks, but also some of the individuals who are seeing their cowboy culture changed by the arrival of these new faces with their own traditions. Yanchyk spent seven months gathering footage in

Brooks from March 2010 until September. She had moved from England where she worked for the BBC and was looking for stories to tell which included African people living in Alberta. She had heard a lot of these immigrants had move to the Brooks area so she visited the small city. “I realized there was a documentary to be told,” she

says. She received funding to do just that, and the backing of OMNI Television. Her work began as she

searched out people who would want to be included in the project.Those people weren’t hard to find. “A lot of these people wanted to share their experiences and their lives.”

Brandy Yanchyk made a documentary called The City of 100 Hellos.

Some people were introduced to her by others while some she stumbled upon by herself. One of her favourite

characters in the film is Min Li, an immigrant from China,who she saw walking down the

street. Another, Emelyn Yabut from the Phillippines, runs the Fil-Mart grocery store. The focus of her film began to take shape as she

realized that Brooks is a “cowboy town” that is changing because of immigration, but that this isn’t the first time this has happened.This may be a new wave of immigrants to Brooks, but immigration has taken place for years. A woman from Denmark, Inge Ellefson, talks about

how hard it was for her to immigrate to Canada as a child in the 1950s.Now she struggles with feelings of displacement wondering what life would have been like if she had grown up in Denmark and also worries about how the new wave of immigrants will change the City of Brooks. “This is the first time the people are a different colour and different religions,” says Yanchyk, about this wave. The documentary gives viewers a chance to look in to people’s lives, their living rooms and kitchens, which they’d never get otherwise. “It’s a wonderful blend of these cultures colliding.

How they are integrating? Are they integrating? These are the big questions,” explains Yanchyk. Part of the licensing fee for the film was making it into three

languages.Yanchyk was happy to work with officials from OMNI who gave her the space she needed to ensure the film is the best product it can be.

One of the hardest

Jeff Allen and Brandy Yanchyk record film at the Brooks Aqueduct.

Photos by Rachel Boekel Photography/Brooks

parts about making the film was the editing that had to take place. Filmmakers often become attached to their characters and it can be hard to edit them out for time. “Viewers will gain insight into the lives and hardships of some of these new immigrants.People in Brooks go to school with these people, drive next to them but don’t know anything about them ... how hard they work,what kinds of things they went through.” Also the cowboy culture is celebrated and how people want to live there and preserve that lifestyle. “There’s so much in these people (immigrants) we

don’t realize.They work really hard.” Yanchyk also makes a point of using local people to help produce the documentary wherever possible. Most of the photographs were taken by Rachel Boekel Photography of Brooks and Mark Zagorsky, also of Brooks, is the composer on the film. Yanchyk stumbled upon Zagorsky when she met his

father Albert. He told her his son is a musician and he gave her some of his CDs. Zagorsky’s music about life as a cowboy followed a similar theme which exists in the documentary. Zagorsky wrote the theme song for the film and his music is used in the background throughout it. He was honoured to be part of the film “It was a new experience to write for a documentary,” he says. Zagorsky has a Bachelor of Music and Education and teaches full-time in Calgary. He has three CDs, all with a traditional country sound. Zagorsky says he is “very Ian Tyson-influenced.” Since his hometown is Brooks, it came easy to compose a song about the area to go with the documentary. On weekends and holidays he heads home to Brooks, to help out on the family farm. “I wish it paid a little more (farming), but I’m

never going to give that up...” For Zagorsky music is a wonderful hobby — one he finds therapeutic. “Composing music gets the mind going. It

keeps the mind active.” Zagorsky and Yanchyk worked so well

together on this film, they have teamed up again on Yanchyk’s next project.

She is

Left, Emelyn Yabut, featured in the documentary, feeds her newborn baby.

Above, Min Li and her daughter who are also in the film. Below, a family from the Congo who moved to Brooks.

Photos by Rachel Boekel Photography/Brooks

currently filming another documentary for OMNI with a focus on new Canadians being encouraged to explore the national and provincial parks in Alberta. Filming took place this past summer in Banff, Jasper, Elk Island, Dinosaur Provincial Park, Kananaskis, Fish Creek and Waterton Lakes National Park. Zagorsky’s music will be the soundtrack for the newest endeavour set to be finished in April of 2012. “It’s a great life to go out and meet new immigrants and hear their stories,” says Yanchyk about the work she is doing. The Brooks film will also appear on OMNI

Television in October across Canada and on the CBC documentary channel in the new year. Also Queen’s University,Wilfrid Laurier University, the University of Alberta,The University of British Columbia, McGill University and the University of Ottawa have all purchased the documentary to show their students. The Medicine Hat Public Library, Brooks Public Library, Edmonton Public Library and the Calgary Public Library will all have the documentary in their collections. “A lot of people

are interested in the topic,” adds Yanchyk.

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