Pilot film Wilfred ‘Wop’ May receives jury award at Edmonton International Film Festival

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A new film about the legacy of pilot Wilfred ‘Wop’ May received the Jury Award for Best Documentary Short (Alberta) at the Edmonton International Film Festival (EIFF).

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Blind Ambition: The Story of Wop May tells the story of one of Canada’s most famous pilots. May survived a dogfight with the famous Red Baron during World War I and transported medicine to communities in northern Canada. May spent from 1929 to 1935 running Commercial Airways out of Fort McMurray.

Originally the plan was to make a stop-motion animated short, but based on conversations between co-director Frederick Kroetsch and the Alberta Aviation Museum, the idea for the film was born. Kroetsch co-director Tom Robinson said that the fact that May performed a significant amount of thefts after being blinded in one eye was a key part of her story. May had been hit in the eye by a shard of steel while working on a lathe in Dayton, Ohio, after World War I.

“He was a fading guy in history and we wanted to bring his memory back,” Robinson said. “Not only was he a hero, but he was a hero who had to sacrifice things. He couldn’t have spent as much time at home as he would have liked. Part of our message is that he is an amazing man who has done amazing things for Canada and the world, but it has come at a cost. “

May also flew the first airmail to the Arctic, formed the first Canadian flying club and the Royal Canadian Air Force Para Rescue Group. In 1932, May made international news by participating in the “Mad Trapper” manhunt. The search for Albert Johnson, a trapper who shot one policeman and killed another, marked the police’s first aerial manhunt. Fort McMurray Heritage Village has a cabin dedicated to May and archivist Kailey Gordon has said he was instrumental in the early days of aviation in the area.

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“He was an amazing guy,” said Gordon. “He lived in a cabin on Franklin Avenue. We have a photo of one of his planes, a seven minute video of him and the propeller of one of his planes.

May’s son Denny was instrumental in the project, but passed away just before the premiere at EIFF last weekend. Robinson said Denny was an incredible storyteller and the project wouldn’t exist without his contributions.

“Denny has been so generous with his time,” said Robinson. “He was such a nice and kind man. It was great to listen to him because he was such an experienced storyteller. It shows in the film. It was so heartbreaking; I had spoken to him the day before the premiere.

The film was shot on location in the Edmonton area and features reenactments shot on 35mm film and an original score by a 50-piece orchestra. Blind Ambition can be viewed online until the end of its release later this month on the EIFF website. The film is scheduled to be part of the Wop May exhibit at the Alberta Aviation Museum.

“He really brought the idea of ​​aviation as a business enterprise to the world,” said Robinson. “He was a guy who always said yes. If people needed help, he was there to help.

A file photo of the Fort McMurray Heritage Village in Wop May, dated between 1920 and 1940. Photo by Denny May.

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