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Hollywood movies coming to isolated First Nations reserves

Actor Adam Beach leads Bandwidth Digital Releasing program of 'pop-up' theatres

By Jay Stone, Postmedia News

Hollywood is coming to First Nations reserves.

Bandwidth Digital Releasing, a network of pop-up movie theatres — complete with food and beverage concessions — will screen films in far-flung locations where there aren’t any theatres.

The first weekend screenings, April 11 to 13, will be held at the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation on a reserve 45 minutes north of Winnipeg. It will include such Hollywood fare as The Lego Movie and Draft Day — the Kevin Costner film that opens that weekend — as well as the Oscar-winning drama 12 Years a Slave and Path of Souls, a Canadian film directed by Jeremy Torrie, one of the partners in Bandwidth.

The new company was founded by Torrie, actor Adam Beach (Flags of Our Fathers, Arctic Air), and former broadcast executive Jim Compton, to bring the big screen experience — including 35-foot screens and Dolby Surround Sound — to audiences who previously couldn’t get it.

“We’re going to bring them the movie experience they couldn’t see because they’re so isolated,” Beach said in an interview from Labrador, where he was visiting First Nations communities. He said he know some communities in Ontario that rent a bus for a trip to the closest movie theatre, a trip that can cost $3,000.

Admission to Bandwith, on the other hand, is $12 for adults and $8 for children, and all proceeds will go to the Adam Beach Film Institute, a non-profit organization in Winnipeg that is designed to train young filmmakers. Beach will be at the Brokenhead launch.

“It’s all about training and jobs,” Beach said. One of the major goals of Bandwidth is to create jobs for local Aboriginal youth by training them in film distribution and exhibition. The film school, meanwhile, will help them get their stories made.

First Nations communities “are in a place where they need to be motivated and stimulated and create hope,” Beach said.

“I’m tired of hearing people say, ‘Oh, there’s suicide issues, there’s water issues, there’s problems that come from being isolated, lack of motivation.’ When I go there, I see all of that, but I look into these young people’s eyes and I see the passion, I see the excitement they have when a person like me arrives, saying, ‘I love your movies, I love your TV shows.’ And that makes me realize, why aren’t I helping them have the opportunity … It’s what I would have wanted.”

Other Bandwith screenings will be held April 17-20 on the Norway House Cree Nation Reserve in Manitoba and April 25-27 on the Sandy Bay First Nation reserve. Beach said some of his show-business friends, including Christian Slater and Hayden Christensen, may be guests at some of the screenings.

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