Maudie the movie: Story of Digby folk artist will premiere at Toronto International Film Festival

Miniseries filmed in Newfoundland to have big debut at TIFF

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier
Published on July 27, 2016

The Maud Lewis memorial in Marshalltown

©Karla Kelly

TORONTO, ONT. – Maudie the movie will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this September.

The Canadian-Irish production, with Sally Hawkins as Digby folk artist Maud Lewis and Ethan Hawke as her husband Everett, was filmed in Newfoundland last summer.

It is the only Canadian production to be shown as a special presentation at TIFF.

“We have an evening screening on a Monday night which is prestigious, this is the same time slot where Brooklyn premiered last year, there is a red carpet and the whole nine yards,” says co-producer Mary Young Leckie. “The Elgin is a great theatre on Young Street, one of the oldest most beautiful theatres.”

Maud Lewis suffered from the effects of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and yet made a living by creating bright simple folk paintings.

In 1938, she married Everett and moved into his house in Marshalltown just outside Digby, Nova Scotia.

RELATED: Maude Lewis’s death as noted in The Digby Courier 46 years ago

Leckie says this big screen version of the Maud Lewis story shows two people who society felt shouldn’t be or couldn’t be loved and yet they find love with each other.

“Maud herself, her story, she must have been in so much pain, taunted by kids when she was young, she had it tough and yet she found so much joy,” says Leckie. “We live in a complex world – I thought it was complex when I started this project in 2003 – but now boy, the world is insane, and I just think we all need to find a way to find joy.”

Leckie should know – a friend and colleague introduced her to the story of Maud Lewis at a particularly tough time in her life.

Leckie was in Halifax in 2003 working as a producer on a miniseries for CBC about the Halifax Explosion, when her mother died.

Leckie’s mother had survived the Halifax Explosion and had told her daughter countless stories of the disaster. Leckie had even planned to give her mother a cameo appearance in the film.

When Leckie returned to Halifax after her mother’s death to resume work on the miniseries, her friend took her to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia to show her the Maud exhibit there as a way to cheer her up.

“I saw her little house and her art work and I watched the NFB film on loop and it did, it completely cheered me up,” she says, “And every time over the next few months when I was feeling down I would go there.”

Leckie enlisted Sherry White of Newfoundland to write the screen play. White visited Digby and spoke with people who knew Maud, she watched videos of interviews with Everett and Maud and she referred often to Lance Woolaver’s book, the Illuminated Life of Maud Lewis.

RELATED: Maud Lewis painting goes for $9,900 at Annapolis Royal luncheon

Leckie says the crew built a replica of Maud’s house in Newfoundland then created sets to give the feel of the time period, but couldn’t afford to recreate the town of Digby.

Characters in the film include, Maud’s Aunt Ida, her brother Charles, various townspeople and a fictional collector named Sandra from the States who summers in Digby and then befriends Maud.

Leckie says Sandra is a collage of various collectors and people who knew Maud.

“I believe what we have accomplished will make the people of Digby very proud of their daughter,” says Leckie. “Aisling Walsh has made a stunningly beautiful film that will elevate Maud to the level of an international star and Guy Godefree’s cinematography is stunning.”

Leckie says announcements will be made soon about when and where people in Nova Scotia will be able to see the film.

If you’re in Toronto  Sept. 12, you can see it during TIFF at the Elgin Theatre.