Remembering Billy

Ernesto Griffith and Winston Washington Moxam preserve on film the memory of one of the first black people to settle in Manitoba. 

Interview by Beverly Tallon

November 23, 2010

Ernesto Griffith on the set of Billy Beal.

“There’s not a lot of records [about black history in Canada], so I certainly wanted to document a story like this….”

Ernesto Griffith, who played Billy Beal in the 2010 movie of the same name, saw a piece of Canadian history that needed to be remembered.

After four years, a lack of funding, and inaccessibility to some prime archival material — Beal’s photographic images — the project finally reached fruition.

Along with the film’s director, Winston Washington Moxam, the duo wrote and produced this venture, preserving the memory one of the first black people to settle in Manitoba.

Who was Billy Beal and why did he leave friends and family to homestead in the “wilds” of the Swan River Valley in 1906? Why did Griffith and Moxam feel compelled to work on this movie?

Prior to the launch of the film, Griffith spoke with Canada’s History editorial assistant Beverley Tallon on the making of Billy Beal. The film has since gone on to win two awards.

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