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Community & Alumni Blog

Award winner combines peacebuilding and filmmaking

On Saturday, September 24, CMU President Cheryl Pauls will present one of four Distinguished Alumni Awards to Brad Leitch (CMU '13) as part of CMU's 2016 Fall Festival events. We spoke with Brad recently about his life and work.

At 30, Brad Leitch (nee Langendoen) is carving out an impressive career as an award-winning filmmaker, peacebuilder, and playback theatre actor who approaches difficult topics with empathy, compassion, deep listening, and boundless energy.

“I firmly believe there’s so much overlap between peacebuilding and documentary filmmaking,” Leitch says, adding that both require empathy, curiosity, flexibility, and adaptability.

Leitch is the executive producer and founder of Rebel Sky Media, a film and video production company in Winnipeg, MB. His directorial work has explored topics of peace and justice in Canada, Iraqi-Kurdistan, Israel, Palestine, and the United Kingdom.

Some of his work is currently featured in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, and in a permanent exhibit at the Pier 21 Museum of Immigration in Halifax, NS.

“The majority of the projects I work on these days have led to a more explicit merge of peacebuilding and filmmaking, through the topics explored and through the lives of individuals who are modeling what peace and reconciliation may look like,” Leitch says. “The film itself then becomes a kind of tool and resource that can spur the audience’s own imagination for creating peace. This is exciting to me.”

Leitch’s interest in theatre and film was sparked growing up in Fenwick, ON, a community located 30 km. west of Niagara Falls.

He studied filmmaking for two years at the Center for Creative Media, a Christian film school in Texas.

Leitch, who comes from a Christian Reformed background, was appalled by the support for the war in Iraq that he witnessed when talking to Christians in Texas.

He developed an interest in peacemaking that led him to Christian Peacemaker Teams. He was part of a two-week delegation to Palestine in 2008.

While studying Peace and Conflict Transformation at CMU, Leitch joined Winnipeg’s Red Threads for Peace Playback Troupe.

He is currently in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to fund a documentary about playback theatre: participatory, improvisational theatre where audience members share a story from their life and an acting troupe immediately plays back that story using a variety of improv theatre forms.

In the field of peacebuilding, playback theatre is being used as a conflict transformation tool in education, mediation, psychotherapy, and trauma healing.

Leitch is also about to premiere Reserve 107: Reconciliation on the Prairies, a documentary that explores the goings-on in Laird, SK, where Mennonites and Lutherans have committed themselves to finding some justice for the Young Chippewayan First Nation whose land they have settled on.

“I’m very interested in seeing what peacebuilding looks like in a practical sense, and film is a great tool for showing that,” Leitch says.

“It’s something that can be easily missed: That these peacebuilding journeys are long journeys that people commit to and embark on, and they can sometimes be fragile,” he adds.

For Leitch, receiving a CMU Distinguished Alumni Award is both a surprise and an honour.

“It means a lot coming from a community I have so much appreciation and respect for,” Leitch says. “I am grateful.”