SK film maker chasing Moose Jaw Al Capone stories

Looking for paper trail and folk tales about famous gangster

Filming in the Western Development Museum
Photo: Thomas Bartlett

By Adriana Christianson
Published on August 13, 2012

Like the gangster himself, the records linking Al Capone to Moose Jaw are shady at best. Despite this challenge cameras started rolling this weekend for a documentary about Al Capone and his supposed links to the Saskatchewan city.

Saskatchewan-based documentary film-maker Kelly-Anne Riess is trying to chase down the truth about the famous gangster.

Riess lived in Moose Jaw for a few years and says she was always intrigued by the popular stories that sparked tourist attractions like the Moose Jaw Tunnels. She noticed that beyond mentions in news columns and a few paragraphs in books, there wasn't any major book or film done on Capone's time in Moose Jaw.

"I just thought it would be interesting to explore the evidence trail and see if he actually was there," she explained.

The task of building a documentary from rumours and folk tales means starting at the source interviewing people to collect all the best stories. They include the barber who cut Capone's hair the dentist who pulled an absess tooth, and a Weyburn man who claims his uncle had a picture with the famous criminal but the photo was lost.

Riess is also visiting to the archives to see if there was any paper trail at all.

"A court case that Al Capone was involved in supposedly in Regina, so I'm trying to find the paperwork for that to see if that was actually true," she said.

The Saskatchewan film-maker knows working off these rumours is kind of like chasing a myth.

Host Leon Willey talks to "Finding Al" crew
Photo: Thomas Bartlett

"You know, he was this big gangster he probably wouldn't have announced that he was there, or you know he wouldn't have had so many official records that he was there," Riess admitted.

Despite a lack of hard evidence, Riess is confident that there will be no shortage of interest in the documentary. After sending a call out on social media for stories, she got emails from across Canada including B.C. and as far away as Chicago.

"My theory - and I mean we're still working on the documentary and we kind of feel like we're detectives trying to track down bits of evidence - is that it will be inconclusive. So we won't be really able to determine one way or another if he was actually there," Riess said.

Regardless of whether or not the tale is really true Riess is hoping to draw a big audience and point them towards the name of Moose Jaw.

Riess says the film crew is missing the Saskatchewan Film Employment Tax Credit.

"It does pose a challenge, we're kind of debating how we're going to fill that little gap in our budget," she said.

She says most of the time money for documentaries comes from broadcasting licencers, a federal tax credit and the Canadian Media Fund. She says working without the tax credit is just forcing documentary crews to get a little more creative.

"We're looking at different heritage foundations or maybe finding a private donor or maybe doing a crowd-sourcing fundraising campaign just for that last little 25 per cent," Riess explained.

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