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Film: Café Daughter shooting wraps up in Sudbury

Many locations in and around the city will appear in the film
Director Shelley Niro directing the film “Café Daughter”.

Film director, screenwriter and film producer Shelley Niro wrapped up shooting for the upcoming film ‘Café Daughter’ just last week in Sudbury. The film took place in various locations around Sudbury. 

With film funding assistance from the province, Niro said, “we were able to go into Sudbury and hire as many local people as we could.”

“Café Daughter” is produced by Niro in association with Freddie Films and Circle Blue Entertainment and with the participation of Telefilm Canada, the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC), the Indigenous Screen Office, ONCreates Film Fund and CION.

“We were all over Sudbury. We even went to Capreol, which was great,” Niro said. “We filmed at a restaurant in Capreol and transformed it into a Chinese restaurant. We use some of the Capreol Ski Club. And we use the area in the club itself. And in Coniston, we went to the BRB studios.

“There were schools that we use, there were houses, private houses that we used. Yeah, we were kind of all over the place,” Niro told in a phone interview. 

Although Niro lives in Brantford now, she lived in Sudbury back in the 1970s. She started screenwriting in 1991 and her career progressed in directing and producing ever since then. 

“I lived in Sudbury before and I think that it's kind of a cool city,” Niro said. “It's really changed (since 1972 when Niro lived here). But I think you have to find pockets of the places that you find comfort in. Like we went to Gus’s quite a bit, which is great.” 

Gus’s has been in Sudbury since 1952 and Niro was pleased to see that while Sudbury has changed since 1972, some bits of comfort still exist. 

Niro is a multi-disciplinary artist, and a member of the Six Nations Reserve, Turtle Clan, Bay of Quinte Mohawk. Not only has she worked in film, but she’s worked different types of media, as well as beadwork, painting, and photography. She said with her work she aims to challenge stereotypical images of Indigenous people.

The film “Café Daughter” is based on a play written of the same name by Kenneth T. Williams. The story follows true events and the real life of retired Canadian senator Lillian Dyck. Dyck is a member of the Cree Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan, and a first generation Chinese-Canadian. She is also the first female First Nations senator and first Canadian-born senator of Chinese descent.

In the play and film, Dyck’s life is embodied in the character of young Chinese-Cree girl, Yvette Wong, who tries to find her place in a small Saskatchewan town in 1960. “Café Daughter” showcases the struggle with embracing different identities and cultures as a biracial girl despite prejudice and racism. 

“What I picked up in Ken's play was that she (Yvette Wong, a character based on the life of Lillian Dyck) had a lot of like people who said, ‘You're not going to accomplish too much, because you don't really fit in here.’ Her mother (in the play) told her to never let anybody know that she was an Indian because of the racism that was happening or still happens in Canada,” Niro said. 

“I took some liberties in showing that and discussing it. And I just wanted it to be a big part of the film.”

The director herself can see bits of her life reflected in the film. 

“I think it can reach out to many people.  I'm Mohawk, I married an Italian, my kids are biracial. So in a way, I felt like maybe I'm doing this for them. And maybe I'm doing it for people who are in that situation,” Niro said.  

While the film wrapped up shooting last week, there’s still a bit of ways left in the post- production process so the film won’t be ready until Fall 2022. The hope is to have the film featured in film festivals and streaming platforms. Niro’s other film “The Incredible 25th Year Of Mitzi Bearclaw” was also shot in Sudbury and is now streaming on Crave.