Canadian labour leaders have been given a sneak peek at Stand!, the movie musical set for official release next year — the centenary of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike.
Danny Schur, the composer/producer of the acclaimed stage musical Strike! and its re-titled screenplay adaptation, unveiled the trailer at a meeting Monday of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).
Stand! is described as a “Romeo and Juliet movie musical set against the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike, but with contemporary human rights lessons about inequality, xenophobia and anti-unionism.”
When Schur set out to secure financing for the independent production, he made his pitch at the CLC’s Canadian Council meeting in the fall of 2016. His “total ask of labour in Canada” — which he eventually got — was $1.25 million to pre-purchase 500,000 copies of the movie to be distributed to students.
CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon committed the media union to investing $10,000 in the project.
“His was the first pledge from labour anywhere on the planet,” said Schur.
O’Hanlon, who viewed the trailer at the CLC council meeting, said the film has the potential to be huge for the labour movement.
“This movie will engage a new generation in the vital role they can play in standing up for justice and fairness,” O’Hanlon said.
“The message is especially timely and important in the age of Trump, when we need to fight right-wing efforts to crush unions and suppress wages and workers’ rights.”
The movie is to be screened at the CLC convention in Winnipeg on May 15, the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the six-week uprising that became a landmark moment in North American working-class history.
It was the nature of the uprising, that saw 30,000 men and women acting in solidarity for labour reform, that inspired Schur to write Stand! It was supposed to be the movie’s closing song, which would play as the credits rolled.
When the director, Robert Adetuyi, heard the song, “he was completely taken by it,” said Schur.
Everyone involved in the production agreed it had to become not only the theme song, but the title of the movie.
“The theme of the movie is far more about standing up for what you believe in than in the general strike itself,” said Schur. “It’s not just an ode to the past. We’re talking about today, with the growth in right-wing populism. Its message is important to labour, but also to society in general.”
The song, which he wrote in the voice of a black woman, can serve as an anthem for any group fighting for social justice, whether it be unions or movements such as Black Lives Matter or MeToo, said Schur.
The movie is due for commercial release in June, and Schur is hoping the $7.5-million production is a box-office success.
To that end, he is encouraging members of CWA Canada and other unions to become followers on social media and spread the word about Stand! before it hits the theatres.
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg is using the funding from unions to make the movie available to students as a free download after its commercial release. The Winnipeg museum will also be providing materials related to the movie and the General Strike.
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