McLean Mill National Historic Site has hit the big screen.
A film crew from Rhythm Boyz Entertainment descended on the Alberni Valley heritage sawmill in April and again in July to film a Punjabi-language movie, Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO Bill Collette said.
The movie is based on a true story about Punjabi workers coming to Canada to work in the forestry mills in 1905, and the challenges they faced as immigrants from southeast Asia. “Chhalla Mud Ke Nahi Aaya” (“Fight for Rights”) was written by Amberdeep Singh and directed by acclaimed Punjabi actor and director Amrinder Singh Gill.
The bulk of the movie was filmed in Barkerville near Quesnel, B.C. Barkerville is an historic town preserved for its history from the Cariboo Gold Rush. Producers from Rhythm Boyz Entertainment found out about McLean Mill National Historic Site in early April and contacted Collette. The chamber operates McLean Mill on behalf of the City of Port Alberni, which owns the heritage site.
“They tripped over McLean Mill,” Collette said. He received an email query on a Friday from Rhythm Boyz and “within 12 hours they were in Port Alberni. We toured them through the site and within a week they were here with 150 people.”
The historic mill was transformed into the “Kimble Saw Mill,” and is featured in the movie.
The mill itself hasn’t been operational since 2016, but Collette said he pointed producers to a couple of people in Port Alberni that have previous footage of the mill in operation.
Crew members returned for two days of shooting in early July.
The Punjabi movie starring Amrinder Gill, Sargun Mehta, Sydney Eberwein and Binnu Dhillon was released nationwide on Friday, July 29, 2022. The movie has English sub-titles.
This is the first feature-length movie that has been filmed at McLean Mill, Collette said. The railway tracks at the site were used for a Toyota television commercial a few years ago, and the mill and steam train have been featured in various television show segments around the world.
Artifacts used during filming came from the Western Vancouver Island Industrial Heritage Society.
Collette said IHS members Bert Simpson and David Hooper “were very helpful,” and Richard Spencer, a recent high school graduate who works at McLean Mill, was contracted by Rhythm Boyz Entertainment to assist in the production.
“He knows the site, he knows film and they just loved him,” Collette said.
Starboard Grill provided catering for the film crew for a week in April and two days in July.
Both Starboard Grill staff and Spencer were asked to accompany the crew to Barkerville to work on the rest of the filming, but neither were able to go, according to Collette.
The Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce is hosting a free premier of ‘Fight for Rights’ at the Paramount Theatre (Landmark Cinemas) on Friday, Aug. 5.
Anyone interested in coming to the premier needs to register at www.albernichamber.ca/event-calendar.
Film industryfilmingHeritagehistoryMcLean MillMoviesPort Alberni