The Avro Post was able to get an inside look at the abduction of Jammar Allison, documented by a group of film and television production students at Humber College.
Film can be a powerful tool for storytelling, and documentary filmmaking can highlight issues that would otherwise be ignored or bring information to a new audience, as is the case for the crew of The Lone Wolf.
In the film and television production program at Humber College, students are given the opportunity to write, direct, edit and screen documentaries covering a range of subjects.
As I met up with them to begin conducting the interview, they had just completed their three days of filming, and were clearly exhausted. Any filmmaker knows the struggle of trying to stay awake after multiple days of shooting and aiming for the best content you can get.
Produced by Jordana Bain, 22, and directed by Kijhai Boreland, 28 – the documentary focuses on Omar Allison, the brother of Jammar Allison who was abducted in June 2018.
“The kidnappers had wanted some ransom money, so he made arrangements to drop it off for them, hopefully in exchange for his brother. But unfortunately, the exchange didn’t go down as it was supposed to, so he never got his brother back. They got the money and got away” Boreland told me.
Having known Omar since high school, Kijhai approached him about the idea of a documentary, hoping to tell the story in a bit more detail and depth than a news story would provide.
“He had talked to the media about it beforehand, just to spread awareness, to get anyone who had seen anything to come forward. Our main obstacle with the project wasn’t getting Omar on board, but rather, his parents.”
Having the project described to me by the crew of the film, it starts to become clear that family is at the heart of the project, despite the terrifying and heartbreaking separation of said family. Omar, while working as a recruiter and infantry soldier, but also runs the clothing brand started by Jammar, Hybrid Garb.
As with any film, the process of filmmaking changes every step of the way. What is written and planned out may not always make the final edit, but the crew felt very confident in the fact the story did not change in concept.
“For us, the story was already there. We didn’t have any specific revelations while filming. We knew what we wanted to get and we knew what was important to him. We just had to decide how we were going to shoot it.”
Picture editor Cameron Harris breaks the silence from the rest of the crew at this point, “We stuck, I would say ninety percent, to the schedule we already had planned.”
The crew had discovered that the footage they had to tell Omar’s story ended being more than they anticipated especially after you factor in archival footage.
As with any sensitive topic, it’s difficult to maintain commitment from a subject, but Kijhai goes on to tell me, “Since the trauma is heavy, he was down to do it, but his emotions would kick in and he would not want to be there in that moment.”
While the trauma would understandably still be fresh for Omar, a crew of young adults tackling such a topic isn’t always easy.
Kijhai continues to delve deeper into the harder hitting questions from their story, “When I was interviewing Omar’s best friend, Jemaine, he started to cry after I asked him ‘where do you think Jammar is now?'” and because I knew Jammar – I started to cry too.
“When I was interviewing the parents as well, I asked the mom ‘On the day Jammar had been taken, where were you?’ and she began telling me, and slowly she started breaking down and I cried too.” Kijhai finishes.
In order to bring back some happiness, the crew asked the parents to go back to the beginning and remember the good times, such as how they felt when they first found out they were having twins.
One of the heaviest moments during production was when the crew took Omar back to the scene of the attempted ransom exchange. It was both a touchy thing to approach, but could also be a healing process. During the time that they prepped their equipment, Kijhai sat with Omar and explained the scene, and he was visibly anxious, snapping a band he wears on his wrist the entire time they filmed. The scene was shot in one take.
With pre-production and filming behind them and the post process beginning to ramp up, the crew looks onwards to marketing the film in festivals, with the biggest choice being Hot Docs Film Festival here in Toronto.
Kijhai also wishes to host a private screening of the documentary for those who aren’t able to make it to the Humber premiere.
The crew closes out the interview by saying that post-production is bringing its own concerns and worries, but through it all, they have faith in the story and are optimistic about the final product.
The Lone Wolf will premiere in December to a closed screening consisting of the FMTV staff and class, and will begin its festival marketing thereafter.