VIFF Interview: Cheryl Foggo on her film ‘John Ware Reclaimed’

Cheryl Foggo / John Ware Reclaimed

John Ware Reclaimed is a look at one of the least told types of stories in Canada, that of black history. John Ware himself is a locally famous figure and telling his story has been a lifelong interest of Canadian historian and writer Cheryl Foggo, who wrote and directed the film. I have already watched and reviewed it, and spoiler alert: it’s good.

I was able to sit down with her over Zoom this week to speak about the film, Black Canadian history, and the stories that get told.

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VIFF Review: ‘John Ware Reclaimed’ looks to change the conversation about the famous black cowboy

John Ware Reclaimed

A famous person you have probably never heard of. This is the description that Cheryl Foggo gives John Ware, an African-American cowboy who migrated north following the American civil war and became one of the earliest ranchers in what is now Alberta. He is the namesake of two mountains and a creek, but what, really, do we know of him?

As with many people who have places named after them, we only ever hear the stories we tell about them and those stories are often, in a word, shallow. John Ware is no exception to this. Much of what we know comes from the book John Ware’s Cow Country by former Lt. Governor of Alberta Grant McEwan. It’s well-intentioned enough, but it was still written by a white man in the 1960s and is tainted by the cultural attitudes of the day.

Who was this man really, though? For a man steeped in local legend, what do we really know about him? This is what Canadian historian, playwright, and filmmaker Cheryl Foggo aims to find out with John Ware Reclaimed.

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