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The Mystery of Mazo de la Roche

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Mazo de la Roche was a mystery throughout most of her life and remains so today, 50 years after her death. The most basic details of her biography—her name, her birth date, her family history, her sexual orientation—are all, to some degree, points of contention. Her autobiography, through its omissions, raised rather than answered questions; her very tombstone carries misinformation.

What is known is that Mazo de la Roche transformed herself from an obscure Canadian writer into one of the most widely read and internationally renowned authors of her day when, in 1927, at the age of 48, de la Roche created the Whiteoak family and their familial manse, Jalna.

The Jalna saga, a 16-book family tapestry, towers above all her other work. The series has sold at least 11 million copies in 93 languages, has been adapted for film, stage and television, and achieved international popularity out of all proportion to its author’s expectations. The intensely private Mazo de la Roche was made a public figure, whether she liked it or not.

Mazo’s lifelong companion was her second cousin and “adopted sister,” Caroline Clement. Naturally, their relationship engendered much speculation during their lives and after; but the questions are not limited to their possible romantic affiliation.

The Mystery of Mazo de la Roche uses both dramatic and documentary techniques to untie the tangled life of this compelling woman. The film explores her uncommon family life and reveals the secrets behind the extraordinary partnership that allowed the Jalna saga to grow into the phenomenon it is today.

2011, 52 min 10 s

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Golden Sheaf Award: Documentary Social-Political
Yorkton Film Festival
May 24 to 27 2012, Yorkton - Canada

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