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Amazing Race winners share their prize

Two of the most beloved winners from one of Canada’s most popular series are returning to television.

The Indigenous couple from the Edmonton area won season seven of Amazing Race Canada and are ready to share their prize with the world.

Dr. James Makokis and Anthony Jonson were not only fans favourites, but dynamic individuals cast for a season that, as producer Mark Lysakowski explained at the time, was “looking for people that want to share a story that is a new lease on life.”

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The Two-Spirit couple were married in 2017 and purchased Nizhoni Acres, an acreage near Edmonton with their prize money.

They’ve recently signed a deal with Wapanatahk Media, an Indigenous storytelling production company, for a new series based from Nizhoni Acres where they’ll document their efforts to help educate others about Indigenous culture and include everyone on a healing journey of transformation towards a more balanced life.

With the wheels turning, Makokis and Jonson are now meeting with broadcasters to see what channel the series will call home.

U17

One of at least six local films was shown at the massive Action on Film Festival in Las Vegas last week.

U17, which has already won nearly a dozen awards, is a festival finalist and stars local actors Damian Chao, Sherri Dahl and Neil Chase, who is attached to several other projects also appearing at AoF.

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Co-produced by Chao and U.K. filmmaker Ajay Patel, the 14-mintue short is a psychological thriller surrounding death-row inmate Reece Kesan who tries to reach his mother with a final phone call. Instead, he gets a stranger on the line willing to engage in a serendipitous conversation that flips the plot on its head in the final minute.

U17 is a Sharda Entertainment Production and can be watched online. Get the link by emailing bluefanpictures@gmail.com.

Mad Trapper of Rat River

Edmonton’s Myth Merchant Films has been working hard to solve one of Canada’s greatest mysteries — the identity of The Mad Trapper of Rat River who sent local authorities on a surreal seven-week chase above the Arctic Circle in the dead of winter. RCMP officers enlisted the help of the finest Indigenous trackers and even the famed Edmonton pilot, Wilfred ‘Wop’ May in this famed manhunt.

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It’s a fascinating story about a near super-human stranger who travelled to the northwest corner of Yukon Territory in 1931 determined to leave civilization behind. An RCMP officer travelled almost 100 km to the Mad Trapper’s isolated log cabin to investigate accusations that he’d been tampering with others’ traps. The only reply was a gun blast through the door — the Mad Trapper was then a wanted man.

Every fact in story that follows is hard to believe, but Edmonton’s Myth Merchant Films did an excellent job telling it in a documentary that aired for Discovery Canada in 2008. They’d raised money to bring in leading experts from around the world to exhume the body and retrieve DNA in an effort to determine the Mad Trapper’s real identity.

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Forensic scientists open the casket of The Mad Trapper of Rat River 75 years after it was buried in the Yukon’s permafrost above the Arctic Circle.
Forensic scientists open the casket of The Mad Trapper of Rat River 75 years after it was buried in the Yukon’s permafrost above the Arctic Circle. Photo by Supplied /Postmedia

Many leads from possible relatives flooded in, but all of the connections were disproven.

On the 90th anniversary of the Mad Trapper’s burial in the permafrost of the tiny hamlet of Aklavik, Myth Merchant Film’s founder Michael Jorgensen approached Othram to help finally solve this mystery.

Othram has pioneered forensic genomics using trace amounts of DNA and has helped close cold cases all over North America — identifying Septic Tank Sam, the body found near Tofield more than 40 years ago, was one of their most recent successes.

The original documentary has been relaunched this weekend to bring this effort to the attention of anyone who thinks they may be a relative and is willing to submit their DNA as a match. They’ve already determined geographical determinator linking the Mad Trapper to a few communities in Sweden and the Midwest United States. A new feature, Hunt for the Mad Trapper II, is poised for production as soon as the indentity of this elusive character is determined

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Watch the documentary, and find links for descendent inquires at mythmerchantfilms.com.

Prague Orchestra scores local documentary

Speaking of Wilfrid ‘Wop’ May, a few local directors and producers have made a new documentary about the famed First World War flying ace.

The pandemic’s insistence on virtual connections as brought about some unexpected golden opportunities, including the option to record the film’s score remotely. With options wide open, the filmmakers hired a 50-member orchestra in Prague to record the score composed by MacEwan University Department of Music professor John McMillan. This also afforded students of the department the chance to participate in scoring the composition for the orchestra, and last Monday, they gathered in Allard Hall to remotely watch the live recording by FILMharmonic Orchestra Prague. The ensemble is often recruited to provide the soundtracks for big-budget Hollywood films, so it was a blue-moon chance for the filmmakers here.

Like the famous pilot himself, who took every shot at greatness, this was one of the last in a long line of daredevil filmmaking moves by Frederick Kroetsch and his team who captured footage from the wing of an airplane and shot the entire documentary on 35mm celluloid film, a archaic medium in this digital age.

The film is slated for completion within the month and Kroetsch is hoping it will premiere at the next Edmonton International Film Festival.

jfeniak@postmedia.com

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