Exploring Albertan identity

What would motivate an individual to trade the stability of practicing law for the uncertainty of producing independent Canadian film? For Geo Takach, it was a passion for independent film and a desire to contribute to the Canadian arts community by seeking out Alberta’s culture.

Takach’s aim has been to provoke discussion about how Albertans see themselves and how others see Albertans. This is demonstrated by his four year labour of love, Will The Real Alberta Please Stand Up?, a one hour documentary in which Takach travels cross-country from downtown Vancouver to rural northern Newfoundland in search of Alberta’s identity.

“The image is that we’re just mavericks that do what we want, with who we want, when we want, we’re rednecks, we’re all these flaming reactionaries and just fiercely, fiercely conservative, we all eat cows, we all destroy the earth,” explains Takach. “I guess my thesis is: while there may be an element of truth to our stereotypes, they are just the tip of the grain elevator, and the real Alberta is just a lot more diverse, complex and nuanced.”

It’s easy to see that Takach has a burning ambition to discover exactly what it means to be Albertan, but that doesn’t mean it was an easy task.

“I was reading a book as part of my research called Provinces, which has kind of a political science orientation and the fellow was talking about all the myths and stories that define each province and he couldn’t come up with anything for Alberta, other than that it was a province unlike all the others, and I think people here like it that way,” he states. “Or at least, the image is that people here like it that way.”

In order to explore this theme further, his documentary saw him interviewing a wide variety of people, from random citizens on the street to former Premier Ralph Klein, and loads in between. Within the myriad of different characteristics that define Albertans, Takach did find some common threads, like “a huge and even excessive appetite for life, a love of freedom and a fierce drive to succeed.”

Despite all these similarities and differences, Takach wants to get people thinking.

“[Will The Real Alberta Please Stand Up?] provides a starting point for a discussion about a question that I think really needs to be asked more than ever now, which is: who are we really as Albertans, and what do we really believe in. Do we believe in this caricature that is perpetuated by our own provincial government for example, that speaks for some maybe, but certainly not for everybody?”

Join Geo Takach for a free screening of his movie this Thursday at the Glenbow Museum, followed by a guest panel with a question and answer period — a prime opportunity to have your voice heard even if you’re not heading to the polls.

“Alberta’s electoral turnout is the lowest, possibly on record in the history of this country,” Takach explains. “Certainly in the elections since 1900, that I’m aware of, we score consistently the lowest. So there’s a great phenomenon that’s going on in Alberta where a large bunch of people are not being heard from.”

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