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From Flanders to Breslau, local producer films dramatic reading of McCrae poem

Poppy meadow landscape. Spring nature composition.

Perhaps the most iconic words of sacrifice and remembrance, “In Flanders Fields” is the subject of a dramatic recitation captured on film last weekend in Breslau. A production of GospelTV, it will be aired to mark Remembrance Day.

Local actor Bryndyn Boonstra, decked out in an authentic First World War uniform, conveyed his interpretation of Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s poem as the camera rolled Saturday at the digital service’s Breslau location.

“Everyone looks at Flanders Fields as this battle cry … like ‘pick up the torch!’ but [McCrae] was so bitter about the war,” said Boonstra. “I try to get this sorrowful, ‘let‘s-never-do-this-again’ emotion across.”

Boonstra starred in the successful summer play “What I Gave, I Have” at the McCrae House Backyard Theatre, a museum in Guelph. His portrayal of McCrae in that production captured the attention of Frank Greco, volunteer producer at Gospel TV, who then invited him to take on the new project.

To prepare for the role, Boonstra said that he took his knowledge from his previous portrayal of McCrae and translated it into a performance that is anything but a monotone reading.

“[The audience] is like a fly on the wall: we’re actually seeing him in that field as he thinks when he lost his good friend the day before he wrote In Flanders Fields,” said Greco.

The now-ubiquitous poem was penned by the Guelph-born physician while he served in Belgium during the First World War. He was inspired to write in the spring of 1915 after the funeral of his friend and fellow soldier, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres. It is among one of the most iconic war poems in history and is often a staple of Remembrance Day ceremonies.

The description of poppies growing on the graves of the fallen within the piece resulted in the poppy becoming one of the most recognized symbols for soldiers who have died in conflict.

Kunle Oluwojure, president of Lions Mane Ministry, owner of GospelTV and Media Inc, said that the idea for the dramatic work came from his own experience; as an immigrant, he came to Canada with little knowledge of the bloody history that includes the Great War. After his wife educated him on the topic, he found himself fascinated by Remembrance Day.

“When I went to read the history, my heart was really pulled into it,” said Oluwojure. “This is what actually gave us freedom – those who fought for this nation. The war side is a brutal side; the reality is what we enjoy this day.”

The inspiration to create this work also stemmed from a desire to deliver a genuine message to a younger generation.

Greco added that the company is not looking to gain profits from the venture: it’s solely a passion project.

“We have been here, and broadcasting since 2011 – I think we are probably the best-kept secret in our region,” said Oluwojure.

GospelTV is a Christian, not-for-profit broadcaster with a programming schedule that runs 24-hours a day, seven days a week. It is based within the Lions Mane Ministry on Kramp Road in Breslau.

The Flanders Fields program was filmed on October 19 at the Lions Mane Ministry using a green screen. It is expected to be aired on YouTube, Apple TV and Facebook within the next two weeks in the run-up to Remembrance Day. For more information, visit www.gospeltv.ca.

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