Foreign Love Stories: Michael Crummey and National Film Board of Canada’s Documentary to Focus on Foreign Workers in Labrador

Michael Crummey and the National Film Board of Canada are developing a documentary about foreign workers based in Goose Bay, focussing on family tales of love, loss, and longing.

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We human beings develop our identity through the people around us. When we lose our loved ones – or leave them behind to work in foreign countries – we risk losing our identity. Or do we?

Celebrated Newfoundland writer Michael Crummey and the National Film Board of Canada are developing Foreign Love Stories, a documentary that shows love conquers all borders. Conceived as a series of three short stories about foreign workers based in Goose Bay, Labrador, Crummey and producer Annette Clarke plan to craft family tales of love, loss, and longing that intimately connect us and them. “As a public producer, the NFB has the privilege to take time to tell stories that get underneath the headlines and to the heart of things,” says Clarke, who originated the concept and pitched it to Crummey. “Because foreign workers are part of our contemporary economy and a likely indicator of the future, we decided on an approach to understanding the people through underscoring what we have in common.”

Considering the nation-wide debate about Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), the documentary is sure to resonate with audiences beyond Newfoundland and Labrador.

Foreign Love Stories comes in the wake of recent controversy that spawned broad federal reforms to the TFWP, including caps on low-wage positions and reductions in the length of time a foreign worker can work in Canada. It intends to reflect this contemporary way of work as deeply rooted in the tradition of workers in Labrador – especially the men representing the four communities of the Greater Goose Bay area who have often lived and worked away from loved ones to earn a living. “I’ve always been interested in how people end up on these shores,” says Crummey. “Whether it’s the Lebanese community that shows up in The Wreckage, or the Sri Lankan refugees who were rescued by a Newfoundland fisherman in the early 80s and make a cameo appearance in Sweetland, there have always been unexpected things washing up on the beaches here, and the growing Filipino community who have moved to Labrador is a really interesting example of this.”

Sweetland, Crummey’s fascinating new novel, is an enthralling, thought-provoking depiction of a fictitious Newfoundland community facing its final days as a result of a government resettlement plan. Its intimate exploration of the deep connections between home and identity is an exploration found in many of Crummey’s works.“Michael has the ability to write about individuals in all their particularities,” says Clarke, “but in a way that signals those small intimate details that connects us all, without ever drawing unnecessary attention to them, making him the perfect writer for this project.”

“I think it is true that the ‘face’ of Newfoundland and Labrador is changing,” says Crummey. “I’m hoping this film will offer a sense of one of the ways that’s happening.”

The NFB is still seeking potential participants to tell their stories about living and working away from home. Anybody interested in sharing their story can contact the NFB here: nfbstories@gmail.com

Article by Mark Hoffe

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