Double feature to benefit Nepal village

The June 3 double feature of Nick Versteeg’s two most recent documentaries – Seventy-One Years and One Man’s Dream – was in the works long before the Cowichan Bay filmmaker went to Nepal, where he witnessed the devastating April 25 earthquake firsthand.

Since the earthquake, though, Versteeg has altered his plans for next week’s event. Now, 100 per cent of the proceeds from tickets and DVD sales will go to the shattered village of Khumjung.

Versteeg will also be opening the evening with a short presentation about his experience in Nepal, which began with filming the work of Duncan’s own Susan Marshall with the Nepal Education fund and Seattle-based dentist Jeff Phillips with the widows and orphans of Sherpas in Khum- jung. Between 60 and 80 per cent of the buildings in Khumjung were destroyed by the earthquake. Versteeg was no longer in Khumjung on April 25, but he wants to do everything he can to help the village’s recovery.

The funds raised at the June 3 event will go to Khumjung through the Rotary Club, which funds Phillips’s work in Nepal.

"We are working with the consul and Rotary to get the funding straight to the village," Versteeg explained.

The first film shown will be Seventy One Years, the story of Avro Anson L7056, which crashed near Port Renfrew in 1942 during a Second World War training exercise and wasn’t found until October 2013.

Along with author and historian Robert Stitt of Cowichan Bay, Versteeg followed the saga for a year, from the initial visits to the wreckage, to the recovery of the remains of the crew: three British airmen and one Canadian, and their burial together at the Oak Bay cemetery, following the tradition of interring the wartime dead in the closest military cemetery.

"For me, the visits to the families in England and Alberta are the highlights of the film," Versteeg said. "Imagine, after 71 years, getting a call: we found your father, or brother."

The movie also gives background about the Avro Anson aircraft and the Sidney airfield, now the Victoria International Airport.

"We talked with people who had come over to work at the airfield and stayed here," Versteeg said.

Seventy-One Years has been shown on British TV, and Versteeg is hoping it gets picked up for Canadian TV sooner or later.

One Man’s Dream, the story of the building of the Malahat Highway, is lighter fare. Produced for the Mill Bay Historical Society from a script by Geoff Johnson, it tells the tale from the viewpoint of Major James MacFarlane (the hilarious Roger Carr), the Irish military man who wouldn’t take no for an answer and planned the route when the provincial government said it was impossible.

Next week’s fundraiser won’t be the end of Versteeg’s connection to Nepal. He plans to continue to follow the saga of Khumjung, and how the funds are used.

"I hope to go back in the next two years," he said. "I think we have to."

The June 3 double feature begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $9.50 apiece, and available at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre or at cowichanpac. ca