Filmmakers more than treading water

Documentary by siblings focusing on Lake St. Martin First Nation flood victims set to air


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This article was published 19/08/2014 (3085 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A new locally-produced documentary by two filmmaking siblings focusing on a flood-ravaged Manitoba community promises to tell the untold story behind the headlines.

The film — titled Treading Water: Plight of the Manitoba First Nation Flood Evacuees — is co-produced by Wookey Films and Nüman Films and tells the story of the residents of Lake St. Martin First Nation, located around 250 kilometres north of Winnipeg, who fell victim to the 1-in-350 year flood in 2011.

The film will premiere on CBC on Sat., Aug. 23 at 7 p.m. CST.

Photo by Jérémie Wookey Clint Beardy looks over a piece of land that was fully submerged in water during the flood of 2011.

A news release issued by the filmmakers states unprecedented water levels were intentionally diverted through the Fairford Dam to Lake St. Martin in an effort to save the City of Winnipeg and other urban centres. As a result, First Nations communities in the area were swamped and residents forced from their homes. Since then, more than 1,000 community members have been living in hotels and temporary housing in Winnipeg.

The documentary is written and directed by brother-and-sister team of Janelle and Jérémie Wookey. Janelle, who lives in St. Boniface, is 28. Jérémie, a West End resident, is 26. Both siblings, self-described as Franco-Métis, attended Collège Louis-Riel. They are both also graduates of the creative communications program at Red River College.

Before forming Wookey Films, both siblings cut their teeth working for CBC/Radio-Canada and have a combined total of seven years of experience in news and production, which included a stint for Janelle as a French weather specialist.  

Janelle said the idea for the documentary originated with a look at Misty Lake Lodge in Gimli, which has become a “safe haven” for evacuees, but as the issue “blew up” the siblings couldn’t ignore the bigger picture.

“We wanted to give the evacuees a voice,” Janelle said, noting that filming for the project took place between April and November 2013.

“This involved taking day trips to Gimli and visiting the North End of Winnipeg, where people have been living in non-ideal accommodations. And some people chose to stay in their houses in Lake St. Martin, which have been condemned,” she said.

Supplied photo Janelle Wookey.

Janelle said making the documentary added to her appreciation of the challenges faced by the people of Lake St. Martin during the past three-and-a-half-years.

“We didn’t grow up on a reserve, so as both filmmakers and people we’ve gained a solid appreciation for people who have grown up on a reserve and things like privacy and stability. Community members have been shipped to Winnipeg and families have been split up, so it’s not just about relocation, it’s about everyday lives being ripped apart,” Janelle said.

“The funny thing is the more you spend time on a project like this, the more you realize you don’t know anything. And the residents of Lake St. Martin deserve to get their story across.”

Despite their relative youth, Janelle and Jérémie are no strangers to working with the camera. Aged 8 and 10, respectively, the siblings produced their first collaboration — called Hostages — which was a fictional account of the murder of a U.S. president’s son.

Their first documentary — titled Mémére Métisse — premiered on the first night of the 2008 ImagineNATIVE Film Festival and aired on CBC, Radio-Canada and APTN.  

For more information, go online at

Supplied photo Jérémie Wookey.
Twitter: @lanceWPG

Simon Fuller

Simon Fuller
Community Journalist

Simon Fuller is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. Email him at or call him at 204-697-7111.

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