Canadian docu-short ‘Back Home Again’ enjoys Oscar qualifying run in Los Angeles

Director Michael Mankowski’s Theatrical Race Homecoming: A Story of Hope, Love and Community after its premiere in Los Angeles presented by the Consulate General of Canada in the United States. Inspired by the resilience of the community after one of the largest wildfire evacuations in Canadian history that impacted the lives of more than 80,000 Fort McMurray and area residents in 2016, the he story is told through the eyes of the woodland creatures that inhabit the land of Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo.

Nowadays, Back at home won top honors at the Edmonton International Film Festival, winning the Jury Prize for Best Short Film and the People’s Choice Award for Best Dramatic Film. Most recently, the film won two Leo Awards for Best Animated Program and Best Screenplay in an Animated Program. The Leo Awards celebrate the best in British Columbia television and film.

Back at home

Written and directed by Mankowski and produced by Mankowski, John Schneider and Mark Dippé, Back at home features a star voice cast, many of them Canadians, who donated their time to the production, including Jeremy Renner, Martin runs, Kim Basinger, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Michael J. Fox, Howie Mandel, Ed Asner, Lorne Cardinal, Gordon Pinsent, Mena Suvari, Bill Burr, Tom Green, Norman Macdonald, Harland Williams, Sherri Berger, Marlon Wayan, Scott Thompson and Cardinal Tantou — one of two honorees to receive the first “Key to the Consulate” from the Consul General of Canada in Los Angeles.

In 2018, Mankowski, a resident of Fort McMurray, called Schneider, an LA film and television producer, asking him for a favor: He wanted to know if Schneider’s friend and client, Tom Green, would record a voice for support his animation project, then called The beast. Green started recording a few lines of dialogue at his house, and when that was done, Schneider asked Mankowski if he wanted help getting a few more of his friends to record vocals.

Back at home

Back at home

“The project touched me…about this community and how to overcome adversity,” recalls Schneider. “So I contacted Norm Macdonald and we set up a date to record.” Next it was Harland Williams and soon Schneider reached out to select people he knew from his years producing films at Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions.

“At that time, I kept imagining people who would be great,” adds Mankowski. “Everyone is someone I looked up to and John kept asking and getting a yes…all of these amazing actors who volunteered their time to help tell the story of my community…one day, i said i was dreaming that Michael J. Fox would do a voice and the next day he was! …John and I were on the phone jumping for joy.

LR: Charmaine Hammond, Michael Mankowski, Mark Dippé, John Schneider and Walter Afanasieff attend the film’s premiere in Los Angeles.

For music and animation, they enlisted former ILM legend and VFX producer and director Dippé, and one of music’s great composers and songwriters, Walter Afanasieff. These creatives brought in their teams and helped complete both the animation with Argentinian companies and artists and for the music, Walter wrote the film’s score and the main song sung by Jeremy Renner which became the new movie name: Back at home.

“The story of the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo wildfires is one of Canadians coming together to support friends and neighbors in difficult times,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “That’s why I’m so touched by Back at home and all that means for what we can achieve together.

Back at home

Back at home

Voice star Kim Basinger concluded, ” Back at home reminds me that even as we speak, fires continue to burn thousands and thousands of acres all over the world. While myself and many dear people close to me have lost their homes in the [Los Angeles] Woolsey fire, not a day goes by that I don’t think of the millions of animals who also lost their homes and their lives in these fires. With homes and habitats destroyed and so much physical death and mental disorientation involved, it’s a devastating experience, but this film is one of hope, dedication, determination and love; a film of conviction that we can restore, rebuild and recover.

After premiering in Los Angeles on August 11 with Mankoski, Dippé, Schneider, Afanasieff, executive producer Charmaine Hammond, Canadian Consul General for Los Angeles Zaib Shaikh and Disney’s Ellen Poon in attendance, the film is screening until August 20 to Laemmle Monica Cinema Center in Santa Monica. Tickets available here.

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