VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
A story that no one wanted told
By ANDREW HANON
Friday, Sept 30, 2005
As far as Jeremy Torrie's concerned, it's a story that must be told. And given what's happening on the streets of Edmonton and Vancouver, the more people who hear the tale, the better.
In two weeks Torrie, a Winnipeg filmmaker, will begin shooting a feature movie based on Warren Goulding's 2001 book, Just Another Indian - A Serial Killer and Canada's Indifference.
It's the story of John Martin Crawford, a hulking, greasy, lowlife drifter currently serving life in a Saskatchewan penitentiary for killing three aboriginal prostitutes in Saskatoon in the 1990s. Years earlier, he did time for manslaughter for the death of another prostitute in Lethbridge. He is suspected of several other killings.
Goulding's book is a stinging indictment of Canadian society's cold indifference to the plight of so many aboriginal women. At the time of the case, Crawford was the second-most deadly serial killer in Canadian history, next to depraved child-murderer Clifford Olson.
Even though the media love a good body count, however, Crawford's trial got hardly a mention outside of Saskatchewan.
Why? Because his victims were native women working the streets - hardly worth worrying about. Crawford knew this, and specifically targeted aboriginal prostitutes because they're far less likely to be undercover cops, and besides, he rationalized, nobody would miss them anyway.
After reading the book, Torrie, who produced the 2003 film Cowboys and Indians: The J.J. Harper story, was determined to make a movie about Crawford and his victims. He will be the writer, director and producer.
"Nobody wanted to back it," he tells me. "It was like it was the story nobody wanted told."
Finally, the Manitoba-based native television network, APTN, agreed to help with the project, and a few other parties followed. Still, Torrie and his partners had to beg and borrow more than $200,000 of their own money and equity to piece together the $1.1 million budget.
In order to get the backing, and to ensure that mainstream audiences would be interested once it was completed, Torrie had to take a different, more Hollywood approach to the story than Crawford's book did.
Capitalizing on the current fascination with the supernatural, there will be a spiritual element in the story, what Torrie describes as "a Sixth Sense feel." The spirits of the murdered women will haunt one of the characters, he says.
He's also enlisted the services of Mike Butters, who played the villain in the low-budget indie shockfest Saw, to play Crawford.
"I'm also hoping to land another U.S. star to play another pivotal role, which I hope to announce in the next day or so. I can't say anything yet, though," Torrie adds coyly.
Some names have been changed and some characters will be blended together in the interest of storytelling, but Torrie says he will remain true to the message and spirit of Goulding's book.
"I know first-hand the impact of violence on a family," Torrie, an Objibwa, says. "This story is very personal for me. That's why I worked so hard to make sure we could get it done."
Final edits are supposed to be completed by early November.
APTN will broadcast the movie, which has a working title of Mr. Soul, but Torrie also plans to take it to film festivals in the hope of having it picked up by a major distributor for theatrical release.
The message about the unjust treatment of aboriginal women will remain intact, Torrie says, but the audience won't be bludgeoned with it. Ultimately, he wants to tell a compelling story.
Film, he said, "is a medium that can make a difference. I just pray that the
film which nobody wanted to support will become the film that everyone wants to
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Updated: August 21, 2016