A group of filmmakers from British Columbia is heading to Newfoundland in a few weeks to start shooting a new project based on the holiday tradition of mummering.
For the last two years, Rendering Glint Films has been working on a short film titled Lovely Mummers, which is the brainchild of Bhaveek Makan, who was born in South Africa but lived in rural Newfoundland for six years before eventually moving to B.C.
“It’s a fairytale, I guess, that’s sort of the best way to put it, that focuses a lot on Newfoundland folklore,” Makan told CBC.
“We thought that mummering would be a cool thing to bring on to screen. Mostly since most people, even in Canada, don’t know what it is.”
For Lovely Mummers, Makan is drawing on the six years he spent living in the Newfoundland towns of Twillingate and Glovertown, where he learned about the province’s folklore such as fairies and traditions like mummering and hobby horses during the holiday season.
The film will follow a Twillingate family during Christmas that gets a visit from a group of mummers, whose sinister plans run much deeper than just looking for some free booze and a kitchen to drink it in.
During his time in Newfoundland, mummering was always portrayed as a fun activity, but Makan wanted to explore a more macabre side to the tradition of people dressing up in strange costumes to roam around the community at night and unexpectedly entering people’s homes.
“We never felt the mummering tradition to be scary at all growing up,” he said.
“But when I tell it to a lot of people out here, they freak out. They’re like ‘Wait, people come into your house and do that dressed up like that?.'”
Once Lovely Mummers is released online for anyone to watch, Makan said he and other members of Rendering Glint Films plan to start work on a feature-length film called Allowed In, which will expand on the scary mummer idea.
Monsters under the mask
To make the costumes extra scary, Makan and the rest of the team have been researching photos and descriptions of mummers from as far back as the 1800s.
The director said his intention with the mummer film is not to paint the tradition in a negative light, but to put a dark spin on it in order to bring attention to a larger theme of how the people under the costumes are actually the real things to be afraid of.
“People that are under the disguise are the actual real horrors in life,” he said. “We wanted to bridge that gap between monsters and humans — the real monsters are the human themselves.”
Mummers go macabre
Lovely Mummers isn’t the first time someone has seen a dark side to the mummering tradition.
A group of St. John’s fimmakers recently made a short film that painted mummers in a murderous way, and Newfoundland comedy group the Outhouse made an online video last year that used scary mummers to get laughs.
To get his project going, Makan is working with St. John’s writer Cole Hayley and has started a crowdfunding campaign for anyone who wants to contribute to the project and have their name included in the credits.
Filming for Lovely Mummers will take place in Twillingate from April 28 to May 5, and Makan said the studio hopes to have the film premiere in Newfoundland just in time for the holiday season
“We’re hoping to send it off to film festivals by June so it can make it rounds on the circuit,” he said.
“After that we might drop a proper trailer from it and it might be out by Christmas.’