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THE FISHING WIDOWS
OF BAY ST LAWRENCE
PUBLISHED APRIL, 2023
2022 MONTANA PRIZE IN NONFICTION
SCENES IN THE ESSAY
SHORT FILM (Outreach begins 2023)
A filmmaker walks into a bar one day. (Yes, this is how it happened.) She meets a group of six women singing sea shanties. The women - all fishers and all widows - are from Bay St Lawrence, a tiny town in a remote corner of Nova Scotia.
The filmmaker returns five years later to discover a starkly beautiful landscape surrounding a town beset by social woes: youth unemployment, rampant substance abuse and a freakishly high male mortality rate.
Two of the widows, the Buchanan sisters Theresa and Margaret, grew up isolated and poor, scraping by for decades. But when their husbands died they took charge: they converted their fishing businesses into multi-million dollar operations while simultaneously recharging the town, generating a new sense of civic pride.
The sisters - brusque, self-effacing, bitingly funny- are unfazed by wealth, by recognition, certainly by the attentions of a devoted camera lens. They have lost their husbands, and some of their brothers and sons, but they've also gained new identities as independent women, de-facto leaders of the town.
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