By: Gillian Davis
Written on: 2022-07-12
Ace and the Scout, a new film being released in October 2022, honours the memory of Francis Pegahmagabow – World War I’s most successful sniper with 378 confirmed kills and his contemporary, flying ace, Billy Bishop.
“Inspired by Canuck WWI flying ace Billy Bishop, two young soldiers join the front lines in August 1918. With the Allies delayed, their platoon must desperately hold out alongside legendary Anishnaabe sniper Francis Pegahmagabow.”
Francis Pegahmagabow (1891-1952) was the most highly decorated Indigenous soldier in Canadian Military History and the most successful sniper from any country during WWI. He is still credited as being the third deadliest sniper in history following Fyodor Okhlopkov (429 confirmed kills) and Simon Hayha (505 confirmed kills). He was awarded the Military Medal three times, being one of only 39 soldiers to have received two bars on his medal. He was seriously wounded during the war and insisted on continuing to fight soon after his recovery. Stories of his scouting ability are legendary! He was known to have entered enemy trenches, retrieving trophies from sleeping German soldiers, and standing near them, listening to their conversations. He used his tremendous skills to capture 300 Germans. Pegahmagabow went on to become Chief and was an activist for indigenous rights. He was known to have a deep love for Canada.
Billy Bishop (1894-1956) was a masterful flying ace during WWI. He was officially credited with 72 victories’, making him the top Canadian and British Empire ace of the war. He also received the Victoria Cross which is the highest and most prestigious military award. It is awarded for valour “in the presence of the enemy”. Bishop continued to serve during WWII, and was instrumental in setting up and promoting the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.
The true story being told in this film occurred in August 1918. Aaron Huggett, the producer and writer of the piece, is well known in the indie film industry. He has won awards for past films and continues to bring history to life in these inspiring movies. Huggett got his start when he wrote and directed one of the lowest budget feature films to win an award at the ‘New York International Independent Film and Video Festival’ (Flicker, NYIIFVF 2005). Flicker has gone on to screen in countless schools across Canada as part of anti-violence programs. Huggett’s follow up feature film “Prodigal” was Best Picture Runner-Up at BCFF, earned a Young Artist Award (Alix Kermes), and screened at San Diego Christian Film Festival and the Capetown Inspirational Film Festival to rave reviews. His 48 Hour Film MPS Project screenplay “Save the Dojo” won Best Screenplay, and received multiple nominations.
2016’s historical fiction short film “Red Ryan” Premiered to sold out crowds, won Best Produced Screenplay at Cinema Worldfest Awards, earned Awards of Recognition for Acting & Cinematography, a Jury Mention at LAIFFA and Best Picture at the Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival. His second historically based film, Black Donnellys (2017), opened to 42 sold out shows in Canada, won 13 awards in competition and festival, and achieved a place among the Top 100 highest grossing short-films (IMDb). Huggett’s 3rd historically based film, Black Gold, earned more than 40 awards to date in festival and competition.
The Ace and The Scout is sure to continue this tradition despite the challenges of trying to get a film made during the pandemic. Originally set to film in spring of 2020, it was postponed until September due to Covid fears and restrictions. Once filming was complete, further delays in post production, not to mention distribution in a time when theatres were either closed or greatly restricting capacity…it was a challenge to say the least. An Indiegogo fundraiser with a video description of the project was started in 2019 raising some of the needed funding. A cultural grant was also awarded to the production. Aaron Huggett is accustomed to the rough and tumble world of low-budget indie. With limited resources, he and his creative collaborators succeeded in pulling off a lush cinematic portrayal — despite the enormous production challenges caused by the pandemic. For that reason, this film truly honours the two great Canadian historical figures who inspired it.