A group of friends in Normandy, made up of historians and museum workers, make Canadian sacrifices.
Little Black Devils – From Juno to Potot is a World War II documentary that tells the story of the Royal Rifle Regiment from the days leading up to D-Day to their battle against the German 12th SS Panzer Division near the French village of Putot.
The film was directed by the late Frédéric Guén, who was particularly passionate about the Canadian Forces’ role in the liberation of his village in Normandy. Jane had already written Oak line socketAn Illustrated History of the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade.
According to one of the filmmakers, Julien Martin, who works at the D-Day Experience museum in Normandy, the idea for the movie was born while friends were all talking one night.
He said, “We were like, quite frankly, quite naively, ‘Guys, it would be great if we did a movie. It would be nice to have something concrete about this unit, about these guys,'” he said.
Since then, the group has overcome the hurdles of independent filmmaking, amassing a six-figure budget from donations that they seek to raise in their spare time. They also had to move on after the sudden death of Jane, the main driving force of the film, in early 2023 at the age of 36.
It’s rare to see another country portray the Canadian war experience on screen, says Tim Cook, senior historian and director of research at the Canadian War Museum.
“Too often our history is ignored by the Americans, the British, the French, the Germans and others,” he said.
Cook said he’s glad to hear more about the project. “We have to work hard to make sure we don’t forget the past and that’s part of it.”
hour | Little black devils Tractor:
After pitching the idea, Jane, Martin, and the group took the idea to the museum management where they worked, who agreed to provide financial support. They have also been able to raise money from local businesses and through individual donations from platforms like Leetchi and GoFundMe.
Even with significant voluntary contributions in the form of food, transportation, and staff, the budget is around €100,000 (about C$150,000).
Being historians first and filmmakers second, Martin says accuracy is their primary concern.
“We don’t want approximations, or ‘close enough’, we really want it to be perfect.”
Some of the filming was completed last year, but the bulk of the work is yet to come, according to Martin.
The group plans to release the film in time for D-Day’s 80th anniversary, June 6, 2024, and donate it to schools in the Normandy region and any interested Canadian schools.
Vogue Winnipeg supports the film
Among those donating funds are members of the group that will be honoring the film.
Major Richard Desjardins, President of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles Society, says the group supports the project and many members of the regiment have made personal donations to the film.
The filmmakers also teamed up with one of the Canadians who stormed Juno Beach on D-Day, Jim Parks, a 98-year-old veteran who lied about his age to join the Winnipeg Rifles with his brother. Parks and Jane first met more than a decade ago and have been in frequent contact, both at a distance and on visits on both sides of the Atlantic.
This is not the first time that the Normans have been appreciated and recognized, Desjardins explains, and he remembers previous visits, particularly to mark the anniversary of the Normandy landings.
” [Local groups] He said, “We were there to make sure we had transportation, there was food, we had lodging and rental cars were booked. Monuments were lined up for us to dedicate, but they raised money to bring in the monuments.”
“It is a group of French citizens who value freedom so much that they do not forget it. They understand that their freedom costs something.”
After Jane’s unexpected death earlier this year, other filmmakers decided to see the movie in its entirety.
“The news took us all by surprise,” Martin said. He said, “This project was so close to his heart and he was so dedicated to making it happen that we thought the best tribute we could give him would be to finish this movie,” he said.
“This way, wherever he is, he can be proud of us.”
Parks, who will play Marceau Lauder in the film, shared Jane’s memories in a video about the movie. Facebook page.
“His knowledge of what the Canadians did in his home region of Normandy was very extensive,” Parkes said. “He did not keep knowledge to himself and pass it on to anyone else as best he could.”
“Farid will be truly missed, his personality and his goodwill. For me, it is like losing another brother.”
Expose the past
Cook says sharing stories of war on screen can help keep the experience alive in our social conscience.
“The film has an opportunity to reach far beyond the book-reading audience,” said Cook, author of several volumes on the Canadian experience in the two world wars.
Loretta Todd captured the impact that film can have with her 1997 documentary Forgotten Warriors and About the experience of Aboriginal soldiers in the Canadian Armed Forces during World War II, including Harry Lavallee, member of the Winnipeg Rifles.
“It made the veterans feel important, that their story matters. Not just for their families and themselves, but for all of Canada, to Let Canada know,” she said.
Cook says it’s important to continue creating accurate pictures of the past.
He says, “It’s a passing generation, and that doesn’t mean we can’t tell these stories. It just means we’ll have to find new ways to tell stories.”
hour | Jim Parks recalls the D-Day liquidations:
Winnipeg Rifles Association President Desjardins hopes the project will remind Canadians of the individual sacrifices made by veterans.
“I think it’s a great story for the average Canadian to see what an impact the regiment has,” he said. The weather was unknown, the waters unknown, the defenses unknown, and these men were loading a boat ashore to free a person from another country. »
“So the level of recognition is paying off. And I appreciate that they haven’t forgotten what those Canadians did, what that cohort did.”