Elijah - a TV movie "about our people, our struggles and what we have to go through"

Submitter Name: 
Brian Beaton

On Sunday, May 25 at 8 p.m., CTV is premiering its Original Movie, Elijah. Based on real events, Elijah tells the story of a tense time in Canadian history, when the Meech Lake Accord was presented to Canada’s Ministers for approval, and was brought down as a result of one man’s actions.

Also, below you will find a press release with information on the broadcast.

Contact Information

Renée Horton
Senior Publicist, CTV
W: 416-332-5374
C: 416-407-7048
E: rhorton@ctv.ca

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“NO”: One Word Changes a Nation

in the Timely CTV Original Movie Elijah, May 25

-- Billy Merasty, Gabrielle Miller, Maury Chaykin and Lorne Cardinal star in homegrown David and Goliath story --
-- Nominated for eight 2008 Leo Awards --

Toronto, ON (April 29, 2008) – The Meech Lake Accord: a political crisis that left the country teetering on the edge. It’s a subject that might put some high school students to sleep, but not in Elijah, the spirited tale of a reluctant hero who went on to change the course of Canadian history – with a feather. The timely, two-hour CTV Original Movie takes a smart and lighthearted look at an important historical moment, digging underneath the constitutional crisis of the time to reveal a true homegrown David and Goliath story. Scheduled to mark the anniversary of the Meech Lake Accord in early June, Elijah premieres Sunday, May 25 at 8 p.m. ET on CTV (visit CTV.ca to confirm local listings).

Recently nominated for an astounding eight 2008 Leo Awards, Elijah is the latest big-event CTV Original Movie following the February broadcast of Mayerthorpe, the most-watched Canadian drama of the year with 1.3 million viewers.

**Media Note** - Download photos from Elijah at www.ctvmedia.ca.

On June 3, 1990, the day the Meech Lake Accord was signed by the Premiers, Elijah Harper’s personal and professional life was in tatters. The disarmingly shy politician and aboriginal leader was facing increasing pressure from his community to effect change, his marriage was on the rocks, and he was beginning to question whether he could meet the gigantic expectations placed upon him. Over the next 20 days, with the help of the Manitoba Chiefs, including the charismatic Chief Phil Fontaine, Harper rose to the challenge and inadvertently became a hero by fighting for the rights of Canada’s aboriginal peoples. Risking everything that was important to him, Harper rocked the nation by raising an eagle feather and saying “No” to Manitoba’s ratification of the Meech Lake Accord.

Featuring a witty script and catchy soundtrack, Elijah stars Billy Merasty (Moose TV, Indian Summer: The Oka Crisis) as Elijah Harper. The movie was filmed entirely in Manitoba including, for the first time, inside the Manitoba Legislative Chamber.

“Elijah offers Canadians a fresh take on a very consequential time in our history,” said Susanne Boyce, President, Creative, Content and Channels, CTV Inc. “It’s a funny, irreverent, but ultimately poignant, portrait of a gentle, humble and courageous individual who inadvertently became one of the key political figures in recent Canadian history.”

“Elijah doesn’t take Meech too seriously, because it’s a weighty subject,” said Blake Corbet, Executive Producer and Writer. “It’s about as far as you can get from a finger-wagging, political constitutional drama. But in the end, it still reveals how Elijah Harper empowered aboriginal people and gave them some real control over the political landscape.”

“It’s unreal,” said Elijah Harper about being the subject of the movie. “Like, who would want to make a movie about me, you know? But I guess when you put it into perspective, [this movie] is about our people, our struggles and what we have to go through. So I find that very rewarding.”

In addition to its 2008 Leo Award nomination for Best Feature Length Drama, Elijah was also nominated this past Monday for seven other Leos, including Best Screenwriting, Best Editing, Best Overall Sound, Best Sound Editing, Best Musical Score, Best Production Design and Best Visual Effects. Established in 1998, the Leo Awards celebrate excellence in British Columbia film and television.

Elijah was screened in October for audiences as a special presentation at the 2007 imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival in Toronto and at the 2007 Calgary and Vancouver International Film Festivals.

Filmed entirely in and around Winnipeg in September 2006, Elijah portrays many notable Canadian political figures, including former Manitoba Premiers Howard Pawley (Maury Chaykin, Entourage, Where the Truth Lies) and Gary Filmon (Currie Graham, Would Be Kings, Desperate Housewives), as well as current Assembly of First Nations National Chief, Phil Fontaine (Glen Gould, One Dead Indian, Older Than America).

Elijah also stars Gabrielle Miller (Corner Gas, Robson Arms) as a political reporter; Tina Louise Bomberry (Shania: A Life in Eight Albums, Blue Murder) as Elijah’s wife Elizabeth; Lorne Cardinal (Corner Gas, Roxy Hunter and The Secret of the Shaman) as Chief Archie; and Gary Farmer (One Dead Indian, The Time Keeper) as a local on the God’s Lake Reserve. Former Prime Ministers Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney and Jean Chrétien are also represented.

Written by Blake Corbet (The Delicate Art of Parking) and directed by Paul Unwin (Casualty, Poirot), Elijah is produced by Anagram Pictures in association with Eagle Vision and CTV Television. Corbet and Mary Anne Waterhouse (Fido) are the Executive Producers. Christopher Leeson (Underground), Lisa Meeches (The Sharing Circle, Tipi Tales) and Gigi Boyd (Godiva’s, Cold Squad) are the Producers, Ki Wight and Desiree Single are the Co-Producers, Kevin Eastwood is the Supervising Producer, and Andria Spring is the Associate Producer. CTV’s Production Executives are Robert Hardy and Louise Clark who is also Vice-President, Program Development, CTV Inc.; Susanne Boyce is President, Creative, Content and Channels, CTV Inc.

Elijah is the tenth original movie from CTV’s “Heroes, Champions and Villains” production strand that focuses on remarkable Canadian personalities, characters and stories. The strand is responsible for 2007’s In God’s Country, starring Kelly Rowan, which delivered a record 1.6 million* viewers and was the most-watched movie (U.S. or Canadian) to air on any Canadian network in 2006-2007. Previous “Heroes, Champions and Villains” titles that have enjoyed critical and ratings success on CTV include the two-part miniseries Lives of the Saints, Terry, The Man Who Lost Himself, Eight Days to Live and Shades of Black, about the rise and fall of media mogul Conrad Black.

CTV, Canada's largest private broadcaster, offers a wide range of quality news, sports, information, and entertainment programming. It has the number-one national newscast, CTV National News With Lloyd Robertson, and is the number-one choice for prime-time viewing. CTVglobemedia Inc. is Canada's premier multi-media company which owns CTV Inc. and The Globe and Mail. CTV Inc. also owns radio stations across the country, and leading national specialty channels. Other CTVglobemedia investments include an interest in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, and in Dome Productions, a North American leader in the provision of mobile high definition production facilities. More information about CTV may be found on the company website at www.ctv.ca.

- CTV-

For more information:
Renée Horton, CTV Inc., 416.332.5374 or rhorton@ctv.ca
Jim Quan, CTV Inc., 416.332.5311 or jquan@ctv.ca

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From the Canadian Press http://canadianpress.google.com/article/ALeqM5jfBoJZpLXyH63xbGLoXcNT-sX66w

'Elijah' tells intimate, sometimes funny story of aboriginal hero Elijah Harper

May 22, 2008

TORONTO — Billy Merasty has been acting since 1983, but says all of his previous work felt like rehearsal for the role of a lifetime: portraying his hero, Elijah Harper.

"This man is my Nelson Mandela, my Mahatma Gandhi," says Merasty, a Cree who hails from northern Manitoba, just like Harper.

"When I was doing 'Elijah,' it felt like everything I had done before then was practice to get to that point."

"Elijah," airing Sunday night, is an intimate and often witty look at the quiet and unassuming Harper, a Manitoba provincial politician who played a major part in the downfall of the Meech Lake Accord - aimed at bringing Quebec into the Constitution - when he raised an eagle feather and said "no" to Manitoba's ratification of the pact in 1990.

The movie is short on the politics and machinations surrounding the Meech Lake Accord, but big on revealing what personal motivations brought Harper, a shy politician and aboriginal leader, to that fateful day in the Manitoba legislature.

That dramatic day is the emotional highlight of "Elijah," and Manitoba officials allowed the crew to shoot, for the first time, in the province's legislative chamber in order to recreate the events.

But the film also delves into Harper's background, his marital woes and the enormous pressures he was facing from his community to bring about change while also revealing him to be a humble and often very funny man as he publicly complained that Meech was negotiated with no input from the country's First Nations.

Harper himself is a fan of the movie, and was on set a few times during shooting, giving Merasty some guidance on how he felt during some personal crises.

"I was very pleased with the production and the acting and the actors," he said in an interview in Ottawa earlier this week.

"Billy's performance was great. He comes from northern Manitoba, way up in the northwest part of Manitoba, and he knows the traditional way of life. He knows what my life has been."

The film, the 59-year-old Harper adds, shows that he was simply standing up for the rights of his people as he raised his eagle feather in the legislature.

"The feather itself is not what gives me power - it's a symbol of what a great nation we are in Canada, and this movie represents that," Harper said.

"I have always said to our people: 'We are a great nation, a great people and greatness is not measured by how much money you have, how much land you have. Greatness is measured by how much you're willing to give and share, and we've shared this country."'

Merasty was delighted that the script was more about Harper himself than it was about politics.

"It was really worthwhile to explore his life and he has had quite the interesting life - he was struggling when he got pulled into politics," the actor said in a recent interview from Vancouver, where he's acting in a play.

Merasty met Harper by chance on a crowded plane in the summer of 1990, just after the Meech Lake Accord died.

"I ended up sitting right next to him and we connected and talked in Cree," he recalls. "I asked him how things were and he said his life was in danger and he had to keep moving his family around."

Merasty, 48, thought about the encounter for years, and was thrilled when he was approached to play Harper given the politician's legendary status among the native community.

"It was very important what he did - it's a different life, a different reality, to be an Indian, and racism is part of the obstacle course of life," he says.

"So I understood what he did. It was electrifying because he was standing up for our rights, our indigenous rights, our First Nations rights. And it was just basic, what he wanted. He was just saying : 'Hey, don't forget about us. You can't treat us like we're invisible, like we're not even human."'

"He stood up for something that was right."

-With files from Sue Bailey in Ottawa