Very Good Dirt

In Very Good Dirt memories hover like ghosts over the landscape of an abandoned town in the prairies.

Creative team

Producer/director/editor: Catharine Parke

Filmmaker’s statement

I was inspired to create this film when my husband and I went to visit McConnell, a ghost town in Manitoba where many of my relatives had lived during its heyday.

My great grandfather had owned the blacksmith shop in town, one of my great uncles ran the gas station and many other family members were farmers in the area.

Standing there on that land, by the ramshackle remains of the old school and grain elevators, I was struck by the speed in which this once bustling town – the hub of a tight-knit community – could disappear.

I started tracking down former residents of McConnell, recording their recollections and scanning their photographs. I was moved by how attached they were to this land, even though it had been decades since any had lived there.

The more time I spent at the townsite, the more it felt as if the land itself was saturated with memories from the past.

To represent that idea visually, my husband and I filmed projections of archival photographs against and inside abandoned buildings in McConnell and the surrounding area.Without any access to power, we had to jerry-rig a converter we could hook up to the car battery to power the projector. It was time-consuming and, with the temperature sometimes dropping to minus 30, a challenging task. But it was worth it to capture the haunting images the projections created.

I incorporated audio memories from the former residents with these visuals and other images that captured the beauty of the location. The resulting film explores the connection between memory and place.

About Catharine Parke

Catharine Parke

Catharine’s career runs the gamut from director to writer to creative producer in both documentary and scripted film and television.

Her short films have been showcased at Telefilm’s Not Short On Talent in Cannes, France, as well as international film festivals.

Catharine’s work as a director in documentary television has taken her around the world with credits including Word Travels (OLN/National Geographic), Get Stuffed! (OLN) and Murder She Solved (OWN).

Recently, she has been a senior story producer and story editor for documentary television series across the channels including Polar Bear Town (OLN) Highway Thru Hell (Discover Canada), Mom’s a Medium (CMT), Air Show (Discovery Canada) and Border Security: Canada’s Front Line (Global).

Find out more about Very Good Dirt.

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