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THE
DEATH TOUR 

WRESTLING THE PAST IN A FARAWAY PLACE

The Death Tour follows wrestling hopefuls across remote Indigenous communities in Canada’s far North  on ‘the most grueling tour in indie wrestling’.   This test of strength and grit will show how far some are willing to go to live their dreams.

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Synopsis

Each winter, when the lakes freeze over, a motley gang of professional wrestlers leaves Winnipeg on a one-of-a-kind wrestling trip through remote Indigenous communities of Northern Manitoba. Wrestling insiders call it the ‘Death Tour’  both for the physical hardships endured on the road and the emotional toll it takes on those who experience it. Famous for its star-studded alumni, the trip offers wrestlers a rare taste of fame and a chance to see if they have what it takes to make it in professional wrestling.  This deeply personal documentary travels through Canada’s frozen North and into the wrestlers’ minds as they battle the elements, each other, and the impacts of our colonial past.

SYNOPSIS

Showings

When

Friday, August 2nd

Where

TORONTO

@ Carlton

When

Friday, August 2nd

Where

MONTREAL

MEET THE CAST

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Tony Condello

Tony Condello is widely known as one of the definitive promoters in professional wrestling. He began his career as a wrestler in 1958 as half of a duo known as ‘The Flying Italians’. After his local wrestling club was purchased by an American league, Condello started his own promotion to give Canadian wrestlers a home in Manitoba. He booked many wrestling greats when they were just starting out in the business. For over 50 years, Tony has promoted and organized his Northern Tour also known as ‘The Death Tour’. The Death Tour earned its name by being the most grueling tour in pro wrestling. Completing the tour is a right of passage and a badge of honour in wrestling circles Now in his early 80’s, Tony shows little sign of slowing down.  He plans to continue promoting The Death Tour, and local wrestling in Manitoba, for years to come.

Sarah McNicoll“McKenrose the Scottish Warrior”

Hailing from small-town Quebec, Sarah grew up in a family of athletes. She was on track to reach the Olympics in short track speed-skating until the demands of her training exceeded her family’s means. Sadly, they were forced to pull the plug on Sarah’s skating dreams. Her drive turned to rage and depression. She spent the next decade estranged from her family and spiraling. When she discovered wrestling, she found an outlet for her emotions and a renewed drive to pursue an athletic career. She knows she has the physical ability to excel at the sport but making it to the top won’t be easy. Sarah has joined the Death Tour to see if she has what it takes in the ring and to improve her English language skills – which she will need if she is to make her lifelong dream of becoming a pro athlete come true. 

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Sean Dunster “Massive Damage” 

Sean is a Canadian Hall-of-Fame wrestler who, in the 90’s, traveled across North America performing for sold-out arenas alongside many wrestling greats. For decades he lived the life of a rock-star, but today Sean finds himself one of the few who’s lived long enough to tell the tales. Many of his friends died due to drug addiction – one of the occupational hazards of the sport. Sean was hooked on pain killers but has now been sober for years. He manages his pain the natural way – through the adrenaline he gets from performing in front of adoring crowds. After 10 Death Tours, two blown knees, and a broken back, Sean thought about retiring to concentrate on training a new generation of wrestlers. But wrestling is in his blood, and he just can’t give up the sport. He’s been treating his injuries and training hard to get himself in shape for his 11th Death Tour. At 52 years old, he knows his days in the ring are numbered, but he’s determined to give it his all for what might be one last hit of the North’s adoring crowds. 

Sage Morin “The Matriarch”  

As part of Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Central Alberta, Sage wanted nothing more than to be the mother of a large family, but life had other plans. Ten years ago, a drunk driver drove through the restaurant she was eating at with her two children, killing her eldest son, Geo (2), on the spot. Her mother and the community rallied around Sage and her surviving son as they processed the trauma, but she still struggles with her mental health. When Sage met Sean Dunster and discovered wrestling, she was instantly drawn to the family-like atmosphere at the gym. For Sage, the stage name “the Matriarch” was a no-brainer when she steps into the ring, she is a proud Indigenous mother and a role model to the young fans who adore her. The Death Tour is a unique opportunity for Sage to bring this pride to other Indigenous kids struggling with trauma and mental health issues.  Being the first Indigenous woman to wrestle in these towns, she hopes that her story and character will inspire

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Dez Loreen “The Eskimofo” 

Dez Loreen has worn many hats; he’s Inuk, a father, a husband, a comedian, a podcaster, a partier, a gamer, a filmmaker, a reporter, and former town councillor.  He’s also the founder of Totally Arctic Wrestling – the first and only wrestling promotion in the Arctic circle. Since Dez was a kid, he dreamt of the limelight and of getting out of his community. Now his dream is to make his community stronger by sharing his excitement for wrestling with a new generation of Inuit kids. He knows firsthand that without entertainment to occupy local youth, life in the North can be isolating and can lead to addiction and other destructive habits. A few years ago, Dez decided to bring wrestling back to the Arctic circle. He built his own promotion and trained himself and just enough friends to put on a match. Despite their lack of professional training, they’ve inspired local youth with live shows and youtube specials ever since. Dez dreams of drawing big names to tour the Arctic circle. The Death Tour is a chance to dip his toes in the business – if he can manage to make it through his first wrestling tour.

Director's Statement
Stephan Peterson

I came across the Death Tour by chance 7 years ago. I was working on a TV show in a remote Northern Manitoba community that is only connected to the rest of the world by ice road a few weeks each year. I was bunking down one night when I heard that “Wrestling was in town”.  I bought a ticket and took a seat right as the first match began. Dogs ran around the gym, happy to be sheltered from the blizzard outside, as kids hurled coins and pop cans at the wrestlers in the ring.  The fervent crowd swarmed the ring after the match, embracing the tired wrestlers who fought to hold back waves of emotion. I knew little about wrestling or the community but to see these two unfamiliar worlds come together so beautifully has stayed with me ever since. 

Turns out I had stumbled upon a legendary wrestling tour that, for decades, has helped shape the careers of countless wrestling greats while building lasting relationships with the communities it passed through along the way. I was never a wrestling fan, but I quickly became engrossed by this fascinating subculture. I began to see the beauty behind this brutal ballet that is equal parts combat sport and improv performance. But what really drew me in deeper was how wrestling had been a catalyst to healing for each of the wrestlers I met. The more wrestlers I spoke with, the more I felt a kinship to these performers and their craft. The story-telling, the insecurity, the highs, the lows, the travel, and sacrifice all mirrored my life as a freelance TV director with dreams of becoming a documentary filmmaker. We each, in our own ways, saw the tour as a chance to break through. 

I set out on this trip aware of but disconnected from the communities we were entering. Their discovery was a large part of this film’s appeal to me. I experienced the beauty, humour, generosity, and interconnectedness of this place and the people who call these communities home.  Although I had read about the suicide epidemic among Indigenous youth, I was unprepared to  experience it firsthand. It deeply marked me and the wrestlers on the tour and changed the way I saw this film. While the film has evolved from the one I set out to make, I consider it a tribute to those fighting for their future and to the healing it takes along the way.
 

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Co-Director's Statement
Sonya Ballantyne

As a child growing up on the Misipawistik Cree Nation, I met a scary blue-eyed man who my dad told me was a wrestler. I had only ever seen wrestlers on TV and to meet one in person was overwhelming. I wanted him to teach me how to do a hurricanrana. I am a filmmaker and writer based out of Winnipeg and I was drawn to The Death Tour because of my own connection to pro wrestling. Ive been a huge fan since I was a child. The Indigenous community of Manitoba has always had an intense love for this sport. Like me, a lot of the kids in Northern Manitoba have only ever seen wrestlers on television and meeting them in person is akin to meeting Santa Claus.

My goal as the co-director of this film was to focus on the Indigenous side of this story, specifically looking at the largely Indigenous communities we encountered and how they react to the three Indigenous wrestlers on the tour we filmed. We also examined how previous death tours have impacted the communities and the memories they have of it. I wanted to show how similar the wrestlers we filmed with on this tour are to superstars like Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega who did the tour in the past. They all had something that called them to this difficult job which often puts their physical and mental health on the line. Their confidence to pursue their dreams is inspiring. Whether in a massive wrestling arena or a tiny school gym in a remote community – the wrestlers always give it their all.

I want this film to be something that non-wrestling fans can get behind. Professional wrestling is often looked down upon and I think it is one of the reasons why Indigenous fans connect with it, often being looked down upon themselves. I want the film to be a love letter to professional wrestling, a sport that I truly love and that touched me as a young Indigenous girl. I hope that comes across in the film. 
 

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Publicist - USA

Annie Jeeves | CINEMATIC RED

annie@cinematicredpr.com

310-995-3834

Publicist - CANADA

Ingrid hamilton | GATPR

416-731-3034

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