Thursday, August 25, 2011

Winnipeg Free Press: Mothers continue to fight planned movie about deadly van crash

By: Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press

"Let me get old and grey and senile before they do this movie so I don't remember."

Daniel Hains and Javier Acevedo, both 17, were among members of the Bathurst High Phantoms who were killed when their school van collided with a transport truck during a snowstorm in January 2008 on their way home from a game in Moncton, N.B.

Since then, the mothers have pressed for provincial and national changes in the rules governing student travel, including the kinds of vehicles and tires used on vans. They have also pushed for changes that would require that only qualified bus drivers can transport students, instead of coaches or volunteers.

In July, Fredericton-based Dream Street Pictures and CBC Television announced plans to make the movie based on the true story of how, in the year following the tragedy, the Phantoms were able to win the provincial basketball title, the first such win for a Bathurst boys team in 50 years.

The producers billed the movie, which beings production this fall, as one that depicts a "heartwarming small-town high school sports victory that made headlines from coast to coast."

But Hains said the film can't be done without exploiting the death of the seven boys.

"It's a movie that's being made because our children were killed, and if our children were not killed ... they wouldn't be making this movie now," she said.

"It would be just another school that won the provincial game."

Hains and Acevedo have filed a complaint with the provincial ombudsman in an effort to reverse a decision by the Bathurst area school district to allow filming parts of the movie at Bathurst High School.

Acting ombudsman Francois Levert has agreed to look into the complaint and determine whether his office has jurisdiction to make any recommendations. That could take several months.

Producer Rick LeGuerrier declined a request for an interview but issued a brief statement.

"Speaking to the ombudsman is a right that every New Brunswick citizen has and (co-producer Tim Hogan) and I absolutely respect that right," he said.

The two mothers have also launched a letter-writing campaign to Premier David Alward and say they'll file a complaint with the auditor general because the producers are getting up to $250,000 under a provincial film tax credit.

"They keep saying there is no money to pay professional drivers for our children to go to activities, and then they turn around and give this big amount of money to make a movie," Acevedo said.

"Where are their priorities?"

The movie is expected to begin production in October, and Acevedo said her position might be different if the producers consulted her and the other parents on the project.

"If they showed us the script and they showed us how it is being made, and how they are not going to focus on the death of our children and the accident, maybe then we can all agree," she said.