Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Montreal Gazette: Parents of N.B. crash victims want review of film funding

By Bradley Bouzane, Postmedia News

The mother of one of seven New Brunswick high school basketball players who lost their lives in a van crash three years ago says it's too soon for the tragedy to be the subject of a film — and there should be a review of a provincial tax credit given to the film's producers.

Click here to read original article in Montreal Gazette

Isabelle Hains and two other women — Ana Acevedo and Marcella Kelly, who also lost their sons in the Jan. 12, 2008 crash — wrote this week to the provincial and federal auditors general asking them to review the circumstances of a $250,000 grant to a New Brunswick production company that is filming a TV movie about the tragedy.

"The movie that's being made is exploiting the deaths of our children and there would be no movie without the deaths of our sons," said Hains. Her son, Daniel, was among the eight killed in the crash — seven members of the Bathurst Phantoms basketball team and the wife of their coach, a teacher at their school.

"The provincial government is giving a tax credit (to the producers) to make this movie and they could use that money on student safety, which I've been advocating since the death of my son."

Along with the other parents, Hains has been pressing for changes to require specialized drivers to transport students in multi-function activity vehicles — also known as minibuses.

The provincial government said Tuesday that the tax credit was included in the 2010 budget and was given to encourage the use of local actors, crew and other resources. The decision on funding was not based on the movie's content.

The government said the decision to proceed with production and claim the credit remains the responsibility of the producers.

Hains was among the parents who also issued a formal complaint with the provincial ombudsman to investigate the use of Bathurst High School as a filming location for parts of the movie.

The ombudsman's office has agreed to look into the complaint, but acting New Brunswick ombudsman Francois Levert was not available for comment on Tuesday.

In an email, Rick LeGuerrier of Dream Street Pictures said: "We absolutely respect the right of any New Brunswick citizen to speak to the Ombudsman or the Auditor General."

He stressed that the film focuses not only on the crash, but on the provincial basketball victory the Bathurst team achieved the following year.

Calls to the school district were not returned.

The crash happened when the 15-passenger van swerved out its lane and collided with a transport truck near Bathurst. The team was returning from a tournament in poor weather at the time.

Using the 2006 movie We Are Marshall as contrast, Hains noted it took more than three decades for that tragedy to be the focus of a movie. The 1970 plane crash killed 70 people associated with the Marshall University football team, including 37 players and eight members of the coaching staff.

"Everyone who is making this movie is going to be profiting from the deaths of our children, and that's not right," Hains said. "It's too soon. For We Are Marshall, it took them (more than) 30 years to make that movie when that plane crashed. Here, we're only 3 1/2 years from the death of our children, and our lives are still trying to heal the best way we can. . . . Our children are not props and neither are we."

Production for the CBC movie, titled The Phantoms, is scheduled to begin this fall.

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