‘The Grizzlies’ is inspired by Cranbrook lawyer Russ Sheppard’s experiences coaching and teaching lacrosse in northern Canada. Photo by Shane Mahood, courtesy of Mongrel Media.

Cranbrook man inspires movie ‘The Grizzlies’ set to debut at TIFF

‘The Grizzlies’ is based on Russ Sheppard’s experiences teaching and coaching lacrosse in the Arctic

A film inspired by a Cranbrook resident’s time as a lacrosse coach and teacher at a school in northern Canada is currently being debuted at the Toronto Film Festival this week, however, there will be an upcoming screening in the Key City in October.

Local lacrosse organizations, including field lacrosse’s Badgers Sports and the Cranbrook Lacrosse Association, are partnering together to present ‘The Grizzlies’ on Oct. 18 at the Key City Theatre during the Rockies Film Festival.

READ: Lacrosse movie to feature local coach

The movie is based on the true life events of Cranbrook resident Russ Sheppard, a local lawyer with Rockies Law Corporation. Russ currently works with Badgers Sports and the Cranbrook Lacrosse Association to bring some of the same concepts that are depicted in the film to youth athletics in Cranbrook.

Prior to practicing law, Sheppard completed his education degree before heading up to Kugluktuk in 1998, a small, Inuit community in the Arctic Circle that had one of the highest rates of suicide in North America.

In the film, Sheppard — played by Ben Schnetzer — is shocked and overwhelmed by the numerous social issues facing the youth, all as a result of the massive legacy of colonization on their families and communities.

He introduces a lacrosse program in the school. Through sport, the youth find a vital outlet for their emotions and the team creates a sense of pride and purpose in themselves and their community. The students work to take control of their destiny and Russ learns about what real character is all about.

The film is directed by Miranda de Pencier, a Canadian actress in film, television and stage who turned to producing and directing in the late 1990s. The script was written and developed by Graham Yost and Moira Walley-Beckett.

Following the world premiere of ‘The Grizzlies’ at TIFF this week, Sheppard will be heading to Alberta for the Edmonton Film Festival, with further stops for screenings at film festivals in Calgary and Vancovuer over the coming weeks.

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