Wilfred ‘Wop’ May Pilot Film Receives Jury Prize at Edmonton International Film Festival

A new film about the legacy of pilot Wilfred “Wop” May has received the Jury Prize for Best Documentary Short (Alberta) at the Edmonton International Film Festival (EIFF).

Blind Ambition: The Story of Wop May chronicles the life 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 from 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 the fact that May flew a lot after being blinded in one eye was one of the key elements of her story. May had been hit in the eye by a splinter of steel while working on a lathe in Dayton, Ohio after World War I.

“He was a guy fading into 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 wasn’t able to spend as much time at home as he would have liked. Part of our message is that he is an incredible man who has done incredible things for Canada and the world, but it came at a cost.

May also sent 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 manhunt for the “Mad Trapper”.

The search for Albert Johnson, a trapper who shot one police officer and killed another, marked the first aerial manhunt. Fort McMurray Heritage Village has a dedicated May cabin and archivist Kailey Gordon said he was instrumental in the early days of aviation in the area.

“He was an amazing guy,” Gordon said. “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 died just before the premiere at FEI last weekend. Robinson said Denny was an amazing storyteller and the project would not exist without his contributions.

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

The film was shot on location in the Edmonton area and features recreations shot on 35mm film and an original score by a 50-piece orchestra.

Blind Ambition can be viewed online until the end of its broadcast later this month on the FEI website. The plan is for the film to be part of the Wop May exhibit at the Alberta Aviation Museum.

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

About Jessica J. Bass

Check Also

North Carolina Supreme Court restores jury award to elderly couple for home invasion

An elderly couple who survived a home invasion robbery conspired by an employee of a …