Back Home Again is a short-animated film about the disaster and the aftermath of the 2016 Horse River Wildfire that aims to spark a conversation about mental health to all those affected. The film follows a community of wild animals going through the events of the 2016 wildfire, from the stress of the evacuation to the rebuilding and recovery phase. The movie has a star-studded cast that includes big names such as Howie Mandel, Ed Asner, Mena Suvari, Jeremy Renner, Martin Short, Kim Basinger, Tom Green, Marlon Wayans, Eugene Levy, Michale J. Fox, Harland Williams, and many more.
The cast looks to share a healing message beyond the Alberta province that saw over 88,000 people forced from their homes and thousands of wild animals affected. This was the largest wildfire evacuation in Alberta’s history that saw a whole country come together to fight the wildfire. The firefighters got help from the Canadian Red Cross, Canadian provincial agencies, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canadian Forces, and many other volunteers.
The 30-minute film is expected to start streamlining for free this fall and shows the impact of the wildfire through anecdotes from woodland animals living in the community. The film director and creator, Michael Mankowski, was in the frontline of the disaster and said he recorded over 200 testimonials after the disaster in and around the region and used them as inspiration for the film.
He used this as the best chance to shine some positive light on the community and focus on how they came together to help each other. Shortly after the disaster, he started writing the script that destroyed 2,400 structures and caused around $9 billion in damages. He didn’t know that the film would end up with all the starts that have been involved. However, every celebrity asked to take part agreed and devoted their time and talent towards the project.
The film aims at helping families bridge the gap and open up to challenging conversations addressing mental health. The whole project was vetted by mental health experts, including 19 who went over the script. The only way of healing from the disaster is having a conversation, accepting people affected by the disaster, challenging it, and overcoming it. The short movie is expected to be a crucial tool to assist people in talking about living through the horrific incident, especially with children.
Mankowski underwent animation training for five years to get the film into production. With the help and support of film industry professionals, Canadian Red Cross, the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo Economic Development and Tourism, Canadian Mental Health Association, and other volunteers, the film has come to life. After five long years, it’s time to trigger a conversation about mental health and how the affected community is holding up. As much as the wildfire was a traumatic experience, there are numerous positive stories of community, how people came together to health each other, and the fact that there’s a strong, diverse, and caring community.