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Estevan plane crash of 1946 honoured in Ruth Shaw nominated film

Watch the full film on Prairie View Productions YouTube Channel titled:Together Forever In The Clouds: The 1946 RCAF Estevan Plane Crash Memorial Weekend.
A carved memorial to the dead airmen carved by Darren Jones.

YORKTON - Among the finalists for the Ruth Shaw Award for Best Saskatchewan film at the upcoming Yorkton Film Festival is Together Forever In the Clouds.

“I was extremely excited to hear about Together Forever In the Clouds being nominated for the Ruth Shaw Best of Saskatchewan Award,” said director Curtis McGillivray. “This award is a big honour and is something that I know will bring a lot of smiles to the people involved in our film. I have attended the Yorkton Film festival before but this is the first year I have had a personal project selected as a nomination and what better award to be nominated for.”

The film is one of remembrance of a tragic accident that happened nearly 80 years ago.

On Sept. 15, 1946, 21 young RCAF airmen returning to Estevan in a Dakota (C-47) from Minot, ND crashed near the Estevan wartime airfield, explained McGillivray.

“All on board died in the crash; at the time it was the worst peacetime aviation accident in RCAF history,” he said.

The 20 pilots and one mechanic had all served Canada in the Second World War, 11 with distinguished flying records.

“Following the War, they had been tasked with flying the aircraft used during the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan back to the United States, then returning to Canada to ferry more aircraft,” said McGillivray.

Very little had been done to remember these 21 airmen over the past 75 years, he said, adding at least until their film, which documents an event marking the accident in Estevan.

On July7/8/9th of 2022 a committee of members: Marie Donais Calder, Lois Wilson, Wayne Younghusband and Allison Holzer worked together to create a weekend in Estevan to dedicate, remember, and celebrate these 21 airmen, explained McGillivray.

“Family members of the pilots from all over the world gathered together in order to talk, mourn, learn and experience a weekend dedicated to remembering these airmen and the sacrifice they made for our country.

The film documents this historic piece of Saskatchewan history, the weekend, the people who attended and their stories, and most of all the importance of always remembering,” he said via email.

McGillivray said creating the film was important, adding the Ruth Shaw nomination validates the effort too, not that was needed as the film has its own merit.

“When I first got involved with this project I knew very little about this historic event that happened just outside of my hometown,” he said. “As someone who loves history and has relatives who were involved in WW2 when I heard about our nomination it filled me with joy knowing just how many more people were going to be able to learn about this historic event and hear all the stories of the people who were involved in this project.

When I let the rest of the people involved know about the award nomination they were all extremely happy.”

McGillivray said ultimately the film stands on its own.

“The creation of this film was never about trying to win awards but rather documenting and sharing a story that has affected so many people,” he said. “This project was started in order to give the individuals who attended the memorial weekend an opportunity to have something to watch to remember their time here, the people they met, and the stories they learned. The film was made so that when people look back to remember this event in another ten, twenty, thirty years they have a video explaining the events and the people who were affected by it. 

“Up until the efforts put forward by the committee behind the memorial weekend, a lot of the family members involved did not have answers about what happened to their relatives. But after taking part in the memorial weekend they left with those answers and this video serves as a great piece for anyone who may go looking for those answers in the future.”

That doesn’t mean the nomination doesn’t add something to the film effort.

“What this award nomination does is show just how powerful the story is and how it should be shown to more people than just those who attended,” offered McGillivray. “It validates for me the importance of remembering historic events such as this and that people across our province and the country should be able to watch it and learn about this historic event.

“Historic events are often closer than people think and it just takes the efforts of people like Marie Donais Calder, Lois Wilson, Wayne Younghusband, and Allison Holzer, who assembled this committee, to bring recognition and attention to this historic event.

“It also gives me validation as a filmmaker from a technical point of view as to see something that I personally filmed, edited, and directed come together so well and be praised. It is such an amazing feeling. It really allows me to validate my growth as a filmmaker and allows me to really know that what I’m doing is the right path.”

For McGillivray the nomination is a little extra special.

“This is my first time being nominated for this award and it brings me great honour,” he said. “I have been working hard growing as a filmmaker the past five years and have been crossing my fingers every year to see when I may finally make my debut at the Yorkton Film festival and I can't think of a better project to finally make that step.”

For Saskatchewan filmmakers YFF nominations do matter.

The Yorkton Film Festival to me has always been an amazing monumental event for our province regarding the celebration of film production,” said McGillivray. “I remember applying throughout University waiting for what may be the first project of mine to get accepted. With the long history of this festival and the amazing experiences it offers people it has really stood the test of time and is an example of what film production in this province is.

“It serves as an amazing networking event and celebration for film makers across the country and reminds me just how strong and passionate the film community is in Saskatchewan that I am blessed to be a part of.”

So, when McGillivray looks at the film now as a YFF nominee has his own view of it changed?

“If anything I think the nomination has reminded me about just how amazing of an experience this was,” he said. “Even now thinking back on the weekend and all the work we put in, all the people I met, and the stories I learned about, I feel blessed to have not only been able to be a part of it but to document it with this film.

“When I was first brought into this project I knew right from the start that it was something that was bigger and more special than I had originally thought. With every interview that I did, the people I met, and the history I learned about, I became more and more focused on creating something that really tells the full story, not just highlights of a weekend. 

“Thank you to the committee members for bringing me on to document this amazing experience and to all of the family members who shared their stories with me throughout the weekend. I am proud that it can be recognized on such a high level and seen at this festival.”

People are able to watch the full film on Prairie View Productions YouTube Channel titled:Together Forever In The Clouds: The 1946 RCAF Estevan Plane Crash Memorial Weekend