Documentary with Grand Pré ties tells the story of Canada’s first feature film

Wendy Elliott welliott@kingscountynews.ca
Published on September 10, 2014

Claude DeGrace, who is co-chair of the Grand Pré Stewardship Board, took part in the film The Search for Evangeline. He is shown during the filming. -

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Quebec-based filmmakers Bashar Shbib and J.P. Fortin have traced the trajectory of the very first Canadian feature film.

The 83-minute documentary, The Search for Evangeline, is about the 1913 film. It will be screened on Sept. 15 at the Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax.

Shbib and Fortin ranged from Moncton to Prince Edward Island to Utah, Louisiana and Southern California looking for any evidence of the film. Claude DeGrace, who is co-chair of the Grand Pré Stewardship Board, took part in the filming.

The pair of filmmakers also spend time at the poet Longfellow's house in New England to locate the genesis of the story of the Deportation of the Acadians.

The film is in French with English subtitles. The Search for Evangeline is a homage to 100 years of feature filmmaking in Canada. Evangeline was the first feature film directed by E. Sullivan and P. Cavanaugh ever made in Canada and it was shot in Nova Scotia.

The film was based on a Longfellow poem written in 1847 depicting the expulsion of the Acadian population into diaspora by King George II. The 1913 film was independently produced by Canadian Bioscope Company without any government funding. A copy of the original Evangeline has not been found so far. Shbib seeks to find out what there remains of this first Canadian feature film.

His film was shot in Louisiana, Washington D.C., Massachusetts, Pensylvania, Maine, California, New York, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Ontario.

The screening on Sept. 15 takes place at 7:30 p.m. at the Park Lane Cinemas in Halifax.