Open Letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Governor General David Johnston and Queen Elizabeth II in honour of a new film by Alan Zweig entitled HOPE which receives its World Premiere at the 2017 edition of the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival in Toronto.
Dear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,
Governor General David Johnston and Queen Elizabeth II:
I am writing to request that you reinstate Mr. Stephen Charles Fonyo, Jr. as an officer in the Order of Canada.
Steve Fonyo, a Canadian Hero and cancer survivor, raised over $14 million for cancer research when, for over one non-stop year between 1984 and 1985, he ran 8000 km across Canada with a prosthetic leg. For this remarkable achievement he was awarded with membership in the Order of Canada. After suffering for three decades from abject poverty and various addictions while living within the dark underbelly of the criminal class, Mr. Fonyo was unfairly transformed into a pariah by pencil pushers in our nation’s capitol and turfed from the Order of Canada. If he’d been suffering from a disease like cancer, this would have been unthinkable. Because he suffered from the diseases of alcoholism and addiction to crack and other drugs, he was fair game for humiliation by the Canadian government.
Where was the Government of Canada during this Canadian Hero's 30 years of Hell? Oh sure, you might think that a hero can help himself. But you know what? From time to time, even heroes need a helping hand some time. Mr. Fonyo's struggles were public knowledge. Was there nobody in the entire bureaucracy of the Canadian Government who might have picked up a telephone to say, "Steve, is there anything we can do to help?" But no, it was obviously a lot easier to turf him from the Order of Canada.
In 2015, Mr. Fonyo made a personal appearance at the World Premiere of the film HURT during the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. Directed by Alan Zweig, the film told his story and Mr. Fonyo was honoured with a standing ovation by a full house in the historic Elgin and Wintergarden Theatre in downtown Toronto. The film itself was bestowed with one of the highest honours in contemporary film history when it was awarded the prestigious 2015 Toronto International Film Festival’s 40th anniversary Platform competition (named after Jia Zhang-ke’s acclaimed 1998 epic).
HURT was chosen from hundreds of movies in a showcase devoted to shining a light upon 12 international feature films made by exceptional filmmakers doing bold, original work. It was the only Canadian film in competition. That it was awarded the Grand Prize by a jury that included Claire Denis, Agnieszka Holland and Jia Zhang-ke might be reason enough for this film about Mr. Fonyo to attain a lofty status, but it is an indisputable fact, borne out by critical accolades and wide audience acceptance that it is a film of greatness. It will live eternally as one of the most original, compelling and heartbreaking films of the new millennium.
Most of all, it reflects Canadian history and captures the heart and soul of a true Canadian hero, Mr. Stephen Charles Fonyo, Jr.
Now, there is HOPE.
Mr. Zweig. has created a sequel to HURT which details Mr. Fonyo's brave struggle in rehab. HOPE will receive its World Premiere at the 2017 edition of the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival in Toronto (the festival runs April 27-May 7, 2017.
I will not say much about the film here as I'll be officially reviewing it in due course, but in the world of documentary, HOPE is a sequel of such grace and power that one could liken its achievement to that of Francis Ford Coppola when he did the unthinkable and forged a masterpiece with The Godfather: Part II, his sequel to The Godfather.
HOPE is a film that gives all of us hope and frankly, it is a film that provides ample reasons as to why Canada MUST reinstate Mr. Fonyo's membership as an officer in the Order of Canada. What makes HOPE and HURT special is that they are not only great artistic achievements, but they go above and beyond the call of duty - these films, by the very act of their creation, ACTIVELY provided the kind of help, compassion and caring to a great Canadian Hero that the Canadian Government with callous, cruel, myopic meanness was unable to do.
So, Mr. Prime Minister, Honourable Governor General and Your Majesty, perhaps one or all three of you can visit the Hot Docs website and purchase tickets to see the film. Perhaps when you show up to one of the screenings you can DO THE RIGHT THING and announce the reinstatement of Mr. Fonyo's membership as an officer in the Order of Canada.
The film is playing:
Sat, Apr 29 7:00PM TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
Sun, Apr 30 10:30 AM TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
Sat, May 6 12:30 PM TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
The presence of all or one of you, or even one of your representatives at the aforementioned screenings would be a few extra maraschino cherries on Mr. Fonyo's favourite food, the banana split.
But you know what? A straight-up banana split would do. I humbly and respectfully ask you to please reinstate Mr. Fonyo's membership as an officer in the Order of Canada.
Filmmaker, Film Critic, Canadian