West Kelowna  

Indus Media Foundation producing war film, filming scenes in West Kelowna

Battle scenes filmed locally

West Kelowna will soon be transformed into a 1944 Italian battle scene, with the production of Steven Purewal’s film Promises, honouring the role of South Asian soldiers during the war.

The father-of-three and Indus Media Foundation curator previously wrote and published the graphic novel Duty Honour and Izzat, hoping to inspire greater public education about turbaned soldiers in Canadian wartime history.

"As a history buff and a community historian, I knew the Punjabi soldiers were in Flander’s Fields five months ahead of the Canadian Expedition Forces, and in fact, John McCrae wouldn’t have been able to write his poem, if not for the very community of Punjabi’s that were the first to come to Canada ... it was their brothers and uncles fighting alongside John McCrae," says Purewal.

The new film is designed to be a legacy piece, stemming from the stories of turbaned soldiers and the exhibition which accompanied his previous book, says Purewal. 

"The film is about creating a tribute piece for people, expanding the dialogue beyond classrooms and museums where we've taken our exhibits in the past," he said. 

"When we visited the Okanagan we struck up such amazing dialogues with the people in the Okanagan that the project grew bigger and bigger, because we could see that people were responding to the dialogues that these stories trigger.”

He says the project has also been well-supported by the Vernon community, especially by city councillor Dalvir Nahal who has worked on community outreach, and Vernon Tattoo organizer Norm Crerar.

It’s always interesting seeing the reaction people have to the stories, says Purewal, especially when it’s not what they expect to hear or see. 

Indus Media Foundation, a Lower Mainland-based non-profit, is funded by the Ministry of Heritage to produce educational material, but has also been supported with a $75,000 donation by a movie supplies company. 

However, despite not having Christopher Nolan's budget, Purewal hopes they can still complete a film worthy of a fully-budgeted, Hollywood production. 

"We want to create a Hollywood-esque product. That’s our aspiration. We want to put turbaned soldiers in the same frame as other soldiers. We’re used to seeing Hollywood productions - most recently, Dunkirk, 1917, they’ve been done on $100 million budgets, so we’re used to seeing soldiers in a certain way," Purewal said.

"But the soldiers we’re trying to re-insert in history, we’ve never seen them in those frames, so we do aspire to create a look and a feel that has the same type of production values. Obviously we don’t have that kind of funding, so we’re always welcoming help."

Purewal says the presence of smoke, which is coming from forest fires burning in the U.S., has made the West Kelowna location scouting process more difficult.

"It’s kind of ironic that there’s a lot of smoke in the air and we want smoke on our battlefield set, but we can’t identify the spots in the smoke, so that’s put us back another week but we’re hoping that’s going to be resolved next week. We’ll have a location and then it's bombs away, we’ve got to get on with it. We need to get some footage out in time for Remembrance Day."

They hoped to have the project completed during the summer, however, the COVID-19 shutdown delayed the process. 

Now, they're hoping to create a short tribute piece in time for Remembrance Day and aim to finish the project completely by the end of the year. 

It will be released in various formats, including online, and the possibility of public screenings will depend on what COVID-19 event restrictions will allow.

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