Almost Home is having a successful run in the 2019 Film Festival circuit winning Best Canadian Short Doc, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Design and Best Director at the Hollywood North Film Awards. Co-directed by Susan Cahill and Matt Rogers, Almost Home follows Cahill’s parents, Yvonne Hepditch and Jim Cahill, as they tell the story of going back and building on Clattice Harbour.
In 1966, Hepditch and her family were relocated from their home by a government-led resettlement program in Newfoundland. She was uprooted from her community and moved to a new place with new people and a new way of living. Cahill says “it was an integral part of my mother’s life.” In 2003, her parents bought their own boat and began camping on the site of her mother’s childhood home. Eventually, Hepditch and her partner decided to build a cabin on the land of her childhood home. Cahill says one of the important questions of the film was “how do we find a home in a place that exists only in memory?”
The idea for the film came from a gift Cahill’s father gave to her mother; a book with photos and notes that told their story and how Jim Cahill got to know Yvonne Hepditch through their trips to Clattice Harbour. After sharing their story with friends and colleagues, Cahill took up the suggestion that it would make a great film. She looked for someone who could help make her film and was connected with Frictive Pictures, a New Brunswick film production company.
This film is Cahill’s first and she found this new type of storytelling had a “steep learning curve.” Without any experience filmmaking, she credits her co-director and producer Matt Rogers, a professor at the University of New Brunswick (UNB), and the film’s lead editor and UNB alumni Jon Dewar with helping her understand both the technical and creative skills needed to create her film. Cahill said she learned a lot about “the translation of an idea through vision and visual storytelling.”
With this film, Cahill originally wanted to create something for her parents that they could be proud of. As she was creating the film, she realized it could have a bigger reach. The issue of government relocation in Newfoundland is a prominent part of the province’s recent history. From 1956-1974 there was a program implemented by the Premier of Newfoundland to buy land from families in small fishing communities and relocate them to a centralized city in efforts to modernize Newfoundland. Similar programs are still being implemented.
The children of the initial relocation program still feel the effects of losing their homes. Some families adapted well to the transition from a small fishing community to a larger city but many faced economic hardship. Cahill also acknowledged that the issue of resettlement is of white, rural settlers and that this issue is predated by the violent forced resettlement of Indigenous peoples.
Cahill hopes that people watching the film will not only learn the history of resettlement in Newfoundland but also think about how communities are connected through shared history. “Communities are made and people bond to each other through memories. When people are talking, they aren’t just talking in that moment but they are surrounded by shared memories and experiences that influence them.”
Shanthi Bell is the media assistant with Frictive Pictures.