You may recall, the two animals were near starvation and death, but members of the community of McBride got together and shovelled a kilometer long path through 7 foot deep snow, to walk the animals to safety, and eventually to their new homes. The people who saved the horses braved minus 40 degree weather to rescue the animals.
According to a news release from CTV , the movie is about “cowboy-outfitter Matt Davidson (Aiden Quinn) has decided to sell his family ranch and find work in the city. His daughter Nicki (Mackenzie Porter), who dreams of being a guide with her dad, is shocked and angry. It’s late December when two starving horses are discovered high up on the Rockies trapped in a prison of snow more than 30 miles from any road. After seeing the spirit in their eye, Nicki commits to getting them off the mountain – somehow. With no other options, she picks up a shovel and starts to dig out the mile long path of deep snow, inspiring her father, family and an entire community to pitch in.”
"The movie being shot now, really doesn't have anything to do with what really happened" says Birgit Stutz, one of the people who was involved in the rescue of Belle and Sundance. "The only similarities are that the new movie has two horses in it, and some people dig a trench. It's sort of like the "Heartland Christmas" ( which aired on the CBC Dec.12 2010) show which had a similar theme, but neither one tells the real story."
Birgit has written a book about the real rescue "The Rescue of Belle and Sundance - Miracle on Mount Renshaw" which is in paper back release in Canada, about to be released in the U.S. and soon to be released in Australia. The movie rights to the real rescue story have been optioned to Big Coat Productions.
In reality, the horses had been left behind by their owner, (Edmonton lawyer Frank McKay) who was later charged and plead guilty to a single count of Causing an animal to be in distress or continue to be in distress. Two Criminal Code charges,( cruelty to animals and cause unnecessary pain/suffering to an animal) were stayed.
McKay was ordered to pay a$1,000 fine, pay a$150 dollar victim surcharge, and restitution to the SPCA of $5,910.16. Since the guilty plea was for a charge in B.C., he was also ordered not to be allowed to own any animals in B.C. for two years. That time limit has now passed. McKay was also given one year probation, had to undergo counselling , and his statement which was read in court, had to be published twice in the Robson Valley Sentinel.
As for Belle and Sundance, both made full recoveries and were adopted out to new homes.
Below, left, Belle as she was found in the Renshaw in December 2008, at right, Belle in the spring of 2010 after a year of tender loving care, photos, Opinion250 archive
Principle photography is underway now in and around Calgary (Moose Mountain in Alberta) and will continue through to March 16th.
The film makers have cast two “rescued” horses for the movie. Working with the SPCA, the film makers have a
mare named "Lady", who was rescued near Cochrane, Alberta and a gelding named "Slim" who was rescued near Penticton, B.C. as their equine stars.
Writer and director of the film is Anne Wheeler. “There was a great deal on the line, not only for the horses, but for the family and a town facing profound change” says Wheeler “But shoveling a path over a mile long to save two starving horses says a lot about what these people are made of. I am grateful to have this opportunity to tell their story.”
In the real story, the folks who rescued Belle and Sundance, were officially recognized by then Premier Gordon Campbell for their heroics.
(at right, the real life heroes of the story of Belle and Sundance, l-r Joseph Rich, Deputy Premier Shirley Bond, behind her are David Jeck, Ray Long, Rod Whelpton, Premier Campbell, Birgit Stutz and Marc Lavigne photo- opinion250 archive)
CTV has not indicated when the movie will be aired on TV.