How a filmmaker turned the Jewish history of Canada into an Indiana Jones adventure

Len Pearl (right) in the French cemetery where he discovered Esther Brandeau's grave (with a guide). (Supplied photo)

He scoured the St. Lawrence River to find clues to how Jews helped the British conquer New France. He battled a hurricane off the coast of France and scuba dived to find a shipwreck linked to the mysterious first Jewish woman to set foot in Canada 250 years ago. No, these aren’t scenes from the newest Indiana Jones movie—they’re moments from the life of Len Pearl, a documentary filmmaker from Toronto, who’s currently putting the finishing touches on his new series about the history of Jews in Canada.

Search Out the Land ditches the typical educational-video treatment, instead focusing on bringing to life the characters and achievements of the Jews who helped found Canada. Pearl shot 100 scenes with 200 actors in period costumes to capture the most fascinating stories available: there are fur traders, politicians and spies.

The CJN Daily sat down with Pearl to discuss why Canada’s Jewish history is a bold, sweeping epic of adventure mixed with the struggle for inclusion and acceptance, and a story that could help combat the current worldwide spike in antisemitism.

Pearl’s work is under the auspices of the United Jewish Appeal of Toronto and supported by many philanthropic donors.

What we talked about:


The CJN Daily is written and hosted by Ellin Bessner (@ebessner on Twitter). Zachary Kauffman is the producer. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer. Our theme music is by Dov Beck-Levine. Our title sponsor is Metropia. We’re a member of The CJN Podcast Network. To learn how to support the show by subscribing to this podcast, please watch this video.