Documentary filmmaker Alison MacLean, with Governor General Julie Payette (centre), is flanked by parents John and Ellen MacClean and children Skye MacLean-Mio and Teyanna MacLean-Mio at the Sovereign Medal for Volunteers ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. Photo courtesy of the Official Photographer

South Surrey filmmaker receives Sovereign Medal

Alison MacLean, director of Burkas2Bullets, honoured for volunteerism by Governor General

South Surrey filmmaker Alison MacLean – whose documentary passion project Burkas2Bullets has been receiving significant attention on the U.S. festival circuit this year – has added another feather to her cap.

This week she was in Ottawa as one of the recipients of the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers – recognizing those who have made a significant and continual contribution to their community, either in Canada or abroad.

MacLean, accompanied by her parents and two children, was presented Tuesday with the medal by Governor General Julie Payette at a ceremony at Rideau Hall.

A seasoned veteran of videography in war zones, MacLean began filming of her independent documentary in 2012 – taking as her subject matter the Afghan women who have chosen to become part of the police and the military in the ongoing fight against Taliban and ISIS forces.

The film, produced by MacLean’s company Tomboy Digital Productions, has been expanded to feature length for U.S. festival showings, from its original 29-minute running time.

Although it will receive its official U.S. premiere April 28 at the Los Angeles-based Artemis Women In Action Film Festival, MacLean has already been notified that the film is a Remi Award-winner at the Worldfest-Houston International Film Festival, which will have its awards gala the same night.

“It seems that people are ready for frontline stories of hope,” MacLean told Peace Arch News by email.

MacLean has said that her often harrowing experiences in five separate trips to the region have convinced her that – in spite of talk of a non-combat zone and a non-combat mission – Afghanistan remains a war zone.

The attempts of women to make a difference in the face of deeply-ingrained cultural resistance remain an ongoing – but inspiring – battle, she insists.

The expanded version of Burkas2Bullets also focuses on coalition troops – including women soldiers from Canada, the US, Britain, France, Germany and Holland– who are involved both in international peacekeeping and fighting Taliban and ISIS forces.

The film does not yet have a Canadian broadcast partner, but MacLean says she plans to make it available to the public here, after it plays the festival circuit, most likely through a streaming service.

Proceeds from screenings of Burkas2Bullets will continue to directly support the Afghan Orphanage and Police Women funds, MacLean says.

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