Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Northern Dancer continues to inspire...


Earlier this morning, on Bayview Avenue in Toronto, on the grounds of the Windfields Estate, the Canadian Film Centre (CFC) celebrated the commencement of the construction of the Northern Dancer Pavilion, a landmark building that will allow the CFC to expand its film, television, digital media, screen acting and music program activities.
Groundbreaking moment led by a capped Norman Jewison!

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, filmmaker Norman Jewison and horse owner Don Ross - - who suggested honouring the 1964 Kentucky Derby winner - - were among a throng of supporters on hand to fete E.P Taylor's star stud.

"I think the little fellow, the 'Dancer', really was the best in the world," said Ross. "He brought honour to his country and he has spread that honour throughout the racing world. I think this will reinvigorate his memory coming up to the 50th anniversary of his record win in the Kentucky Derby next year. His influence around the racing world continues to dominate and I think he truly is Canada's greatest athlete."

The estate is truly hallowed ground for any fan of horse racing.

Located at E.P. Taylor's former home, which was constructed in 1932, the famous philanthropist expanded the property thereafter to include cottages, stables and a gate house as well as a green house/potting shed.

Jewison, considered Canada's most celebrated filmmaker, has an astounding list of film credits including In the Heat of the Night, The Thomas Crown Affair, Fiddler on the Roof, Moonstruck and The Hurricane.
Charles Taylor and Norman Jewison
As one of Canada’s bright lights of film, Jewison was instrumental in founding the CFC and he spoke at length about his efforts in that regard, which ultimately were successful as in 1988, the Taylor family transferred ownership of the property to the City of Toronto for the use of CFC.

Now, with the CFC thriving and in need of expansion, construction of the Northern Dancer Pavilion will allow the institution an opportunity to further develop Canadian culture and communication.

"This is an historic occasion.  About 26 years ago, I was looking for a home for the Canadian Film Centre. A place for advanced film studies for this country," said Jewison. "We were behind everybody. The British had the British Film Institute. The French had the Cinematheque. Australia was way ahead of us making big films and training their young directors."

Hoping to make Toronto a permanent location for a national film school, Jewison reached out to Mel Lastman, the former mayor of Toronto, for ideas on where he could build his landmark.

"Lastman said, 'Why don't you go and talk to Charles and Noreen Taylor and present your ideas," recalled Jewison.
 
The original Taylor home, now home to the CFC
The Taylors invited Jewison to the Bayview Avenue property and promptly wowed the filmmaker with a tour of the facility.

"Taylor took me to a barn and he said, 'This is where Northern Dancer was and this is the paddock where we used to parade him around,'" noted Jewison.

It was also on this property that Taylor held the infamous yearling sales at which Northern Dancer failed to find a buyer at the $25,000 reserve price, allowing the legend to race in the famous Windfields silks.

As the tour continued, Jewison was told much of the vast history of the property that also included a visit from Queen Elizabeth, an avid racing fan.

The visit inspired Jewison.

"There is a heritage here. A heritage of champions. A heritage of excellence," said Jewison.


And Jewison clearly made an impression with Charles and Noreen Taylor who supported the filmmaker’s efforts.

"When we started out, I went to the then Premier of Ontario, David Peterson, and then I went to Ottawa and tried to convince our governments, both Ontario and federal, that Canada had to have a centre to make something wonderful happen in the area of communications.  That was the beginning," said Jewison.

His plan worked, perhaps even better than Jewison could expect, as the CFC has grown from a staff of six, and 12 residents, to over 45 staff, running 11 programs and three initiatives for more than 1500 residents since 1988.
 
The grounds are well kept
At this point, more than $2.6-million of the estimated $3-million total cost of the Northern Dancer Pavilion has been raised and Jewison is hopeful that the facility, in addition to creating jobs, will continue to inspire the creation of great art.

It's incredible to think that the world's most successful 'sire of sires' might soon be responsible for inspiring new and prodigious talent outside the world of horse racing.

"We're reaching out to successful Canadians all over the world to help us push forward and this building is going to be a centrepiece, the jewel in the crown," said Jewison. "I'm so proud it's being called the Northern Dancer Pavilion because Northern Dancer was a champion, a true champion.  And that's what we do here, we train champions."


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For more on the project:
Follow the CFC on Twitter: @CFCcreates
And read: Government of Canada release: Canadian Film Centre get a beautifying boost

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