December 7, 2012

nostalgia lane: CBC's The Challengers

Does anyone remember the CBC tv-movie The Challengers?  It first aired in 1990.   It’s the story of 11-year-old Mackie, who moves to a new town with her mother after the death of her father.

To be fair, to like this movie, it probably helps if you were also an 11-year-old Canadian girl when it came out. 

To fit in with a group of boys, Mackie pretends to be a boy.   The boys are in a club called the Challengers where they wear studded denim vests and wristbands and ride around on BMX bikes and are also in a band.  Mackie (played by Gemma Zamprogna, who went on to play Felicity on Road to Avonlea), tucks her hair under a cap, calls herself Mac, and joins the Challengers and plays keyboards.   She also has a friend named Jenny with whom she does fun “girl” things like make up a dance routine to perform.  However, her dual-gendered identity presents some problems, both scheduling-wise and for Mackie’s mother….and for everybody else when they find out during a Challengers performance. 

It was on The Movie Network the other night, and we caught the end of it.  My husband kept trying to guess where it was filmed (“It looks like it’s somewhere out west…”) while I kept insisting it had to be filmed near Toronto because…I don’t know…I just assumed everything ever made before a certain date was filmed near Toronto, which now that I think about it is a pretty baseless assumption.  Anyway, it turns out it was filmed in Stonewall, Manitoba!  I’ve never been there, but it’s about 25 km north of Winnipeg.  I can only imagine the double amazingness if you were an 11-year-old girl from Stonewall when this movie came out.

There is a sad lack of stills available online from this movie.  I want to show you some moments from the montage at the end, set to the Challengers performance of a song I remember thinking was really awesome, where Mackie AND her girl-best-friend Jenny are both Challengers along with the boys.  They both play and sing in the band, ride everywhere on their spray-painted bikes, and eat French fries with chopsticks at a diner.  God, is it any wonder I wanted to be a Challenger, too?  

Oh wait, YouTube!  Here you go:

The awesome song I remember at the end of the movie is actually by Vangelis.  Though the sound quality had warped and flattened on the version they were airing on TMN and sounded truly awful.  I had a moment where I wondered whether my taped-off-of-TV version, which, yes, I'm afraid I still have somewhere, might actually be better (Dear TMN, please find the enclosed, hand-labelled VHS)…until I remembered it still has all the commercials in it.)   

Does anyone else remember this movie?  


Kerry said...

I loved this movie. I still remember the song from the end. And bmx bikes as a main form of public transportation. Go Felicity King!

correy baldwin said...

Man, oh man. Not only do I remember The Challengers, it seems I remembered several lines of the closing song, too. How is this possible? My sister and I also had a taped-from-TV copy, and probably overwatched it for a brief period. I was an 11-year-old prairie boy, so (the gender thing aside) perhaps it struck a chord? Perhaps I was in love with Felicity King? I was not cool enough to wear studded denim jackets, so I can only imagine what the appeal was.

saleema said...

Yay! I knew there had to be some other people my age who had fond memories of this movie...and song!