Ron Harpelle

Ron Harpelle is an award-winning producer and director and he teaches History at Lakehead University. Together with Kelly Saxberg, he has worked in a variety of capacities on dozens of films and videos. He has a special interest in historical documentaries and in making Social Science research come alive in the form of films, videos. and as new media. This is one of the reasons why ShebaFilms specializes in projects that focus on history and why his films contain an educational component.

An example of our research driven films is Ron’s Pulp Friction: People, Places and the Global Economy. This is a film about the globalization of the forest industry that compares communities in Canada, Finland and Uruguay. An example of his work directing drama is A.K.A., a film about a serial imposter who was a professor at Lakehead University in the 1960s. He also directed In Security, which is a documentary film about barbed wired, from its introduction in the 1870s to control the movements of animals on the Great Plains, to its current use to control the movements of people. Ron is also the producer and co-director of Banana Split, which won the Canadian International Development Agency’s 2004 Deborah Fletcher Award of Excellence in International Development Filmmaking. Ron also produced The Fatal Flower, winner of the 2003 Burrit/Thompson Award, and the “Port Arthur Amateur Cinema Society Collection” a series containing the first amateur feature-length films made in Canada. For information on this collection visit Another of his producer and production credits is Dorothea Mitchell: A Reel Pioneer which can be seen on BRAVO!. This is a film about a remarkable woman who wrote and acted in Canada’s first feature-length independent film.

Ron Harpelle has also participated as a producer in the production of several Social Science projects that focused on research and researchers. The most significant was Citoyens du Monde/Citizens of the World, which is a six-part series on research for development. Filmed in Asia, South Asia, the Middle-East, Africa and Latin America, this series looks at six thematic areas of development research. It offers an introduction to the challenges of development and to some of the people who are making a difference. Associated with this film series is a separate new media project that produced 52 1-2 minute long clips that answer questions about international development. These clips are intended for use by the International Development Research Centre on its website and they can also be used in the classroom as introductions to topics on development. Other projects that highlight Social Science research are  Northern Grown, an educational documentary about Food Security which was made for Lakehead University’s Food Security Research Network and Turning Points for Teens, a 14 part series about young women and body image.

Ron Harpelle has a PhD in History and a background in development economics. He has produced several books and numerous articles on various historical subjects. His specialization is in the West Indian diaspora to Central America, but he has published in other areas. Ron’s most recent major publications are IDRC: 40 Years of Ideas, Innovation and Impact, and Long-Term Solutions for a Short-Term World: Canada and Research for Development. He is the author of The West Indians of Costa Rica: Race, Class and the Integration of an Ethnic Minority, and the co-editor of The Lady Lumberjack: An Annotated Collection of Dorothea Mitchell’s Writings, and Karelian Exodus: Finnish Communities in North America and Soviet Karelia during the Depression Era. He is also a contributor and the editor of Banana Stories/Histoires de Bananes, a publication made possible with the support of the International Development Research Centre and the International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain. The subject of many of these publications are companions to the films we make. Information about these publications and more can be found on his academic website.  You can also visit at the publications page on this website for information about materials related to our films.

In addition to producing films, books and articles, Ron Harpelle has also developed a research tool to assist in the study of the history of the West Indian diaspora in the Caribbean basin. His academic work is used by graduate students, armchair historians and genealogists interested in the history of the 500,000 men, women and children who left the British West Indies between 1850 and 1950 in search of opportunities in the banana industry and the Panama Canal. If you would like to know a bit more about this subject read Identity in Transition: From West Indian Immigrant to Afro-Costaricense.

Other  projects worth checking out are his educational websites that incorporate film and/or related technologies. The most recent is Engaging the World, a website with a Korsakow driven non-linear documentary film about international development. Another is The Lakehead Finns, a website about the history of Finnish immigration and settlement in Canada. His first website is devoted to Dorothea Mitchell and the Port Arthur Amateur Cinema Society. This website makes innovative use of the internet to bring silent film and one group of its creators back to life. On this website you can see how a film strip made in the 1970s has been animated for the internet and you can find out how to teach the history and techniques of silent film to school children.

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