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War of 1812 lights up the night in St. James

Flames of War shown on 20 by 55-foot brick wall

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Audience members sit on the lawn of The Historical Museum of St. James last Saturday in front of a brick wall used to screen Flames of War.

PHOTOS BY SEAN LEDWICH Enlarge Image

Audience members sit on the lawn of The Historical Museum of St. James last Saturday in front of a brick wall used to screen Flames of War. Photo Store

About 200 people, many carting their own lawn chairs, showed up at The Historical Museum of St. James for a free screening of Flames of War — An 1812 Experience last Saturday.

The 45-minute film, which was shown after sunset on a 20 by 55-foot brick wall next to the museum, was produced last year for the War of 1812 bicentennial.

It spent last summer being shown at the Fort George National Historic Site, and is now being toured around the country with three 16,000 lumen projectors perched in a customized trailer.

"So far, people have said they’ve learned things about the war that they didn’t realize," said writer/producer Barbara Worthy, one member of the five-person crew touring the film until October.

"Canadian history is totally exciting."

Worthy said an important aspect of the war is often overlooked; something she sought to remedy in writing the film.

"We have forgotten the First Nations’ contribution. Without their contribution the Americans would have invaded and stayed… they ultimately saved the war, but lost so much," she said, adding promises made to First Nations who fought alongside the British were broken.

The film traced the causes, events, and results of the 32-month war using three projections of graphics, animation, narration and acted scenes.

"Who were the real winners and losers," the narrator asked, as the film drew to its end, adding 20,000 people lost their lives.

It concluded by noting First Nations people contributed much, but they were left with little diplomatic power; and yet, the border has remained peaceful for 200 years, so, "perhaps the real winner was peace."

Norman Sagert, 77, had a front row seat and said he enjoyed the film.

"It was very good, especially (in) emphasizing the native involvement, which wasn’t always in the classroom."

Sagert said the film was particularly interesting for him because he "grew up in the Niagara peninsula, so these sites were all a bicycle ride away."

Museum curator Bonita Hunter-Eastwood said about 400 people had visited the museum buildings in two hours after their 7 p.m. opening in advance of the screening.

As always, admission was free and historical theatre and interpretation was presented by a host of people in period costume within the 1854 William Brown Red River frame house and 1911 brick municipal building.

About 10 members of the Red River Heritage Collective showed up in 1812-era apparel for the event. Group member Chris Black, who had on the uniform he would have worn in the British Militia if he had been alive at the time, said there’s about 20 "history enthusiasts" in the collective who often visit museums and events related to history.

"We flash-mobbed them, I guess you could say," Black said.

Elder Clarence Nepinak spoke before the screening, and drummed while he sang a song that he said he "got in a vision when I was a young man" called Little Lost Eagle Feather.

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